Skip to main content

O.J. Simpson trial: Houseguest Kato Kaelin testifies

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

Editor's Note: As part of's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from

(Court TV) -- Developments in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson from March 20-24, 1995

O.J. Simpson showed the jury his left middle finger which the prosecution claims he injured during the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Defense attorney Robert Shapiro suggested that Simpson's finger was permanently swollen due to arthritis, and had not been temporarily swollen because of a cut.

Simpson had told police that he cut his hand on a glass in his Chicago hotel room after learning of the murders. Detective Philip Vannatter previously testified that Simpson's hand was cut and swollen when he examined it on June 13, a day after the murders. He said the injuries were part of the reason for suspecting Simpson in the murders.

During his questioning of Vannatter, Shapiro suggested that Simpson's knuckle always was "swollen due to a medical condition and not any laceration."

Shapiro asked Vannatter, then jurors, to look at Simpson's finger and compare it with a police photograph taken after the killings.

Vannatter stepped down from the witness stand, took a quick look at Simpson's finger and offered a quick assessment: "Didn't appear swollen to me."

It was the second time since the trial started that Simpson walked over to the jury. During opening statements, he displayed his scarred knee as his lawyers argued that he was not physically capable of carrying out the murders.

Before the cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden concluded his questioning of Vannatter.

"Did you rush to judgment in this case?" Darden asked.

"No," Vannatter said, adding that police gathered more than 450 pieces of evidence were gathered.

In an effort to answer suggestions that Vannatter or someone else planted blood at Simpson's estate, the detective explained how he handled a vial of Simpson's blood after it was drawn the afternoon following the murders.

Vannatter said he took the blood personally to a criminalist at Simpson's home, where a search warrant was being served. By the time he arrived, Vannatter said, blood found at the house had already been identified and the bloody Bronco had been impounded.

Darden then showed the jury news footage from June 13, the day Simpson returned to his home from Chicago. The footage, he said, illustrated that Simpson was treated fairly. The video showed Simpson at first handcuffed, then without handcuffs after a discussion with Vannatter.

Vannatter told the jury Friday how Simpson spent about three hours at police headquarters on the afternoon of June 13. The interview was not played for the jury Monday.

Vannatter testified that the drive from Simpson's home to the crime scene takes about five minutes. Prosecutors showed jurors a laser disc recording, accompanied by a map, in which Vannatter times his drive between the Bundy crime scene and Simpson's home. He made the drive Sept. 25, driving at 35 mph and obeying traffic laws.

During his questioning, Shapiro tried to portray Vannatter as an aging detective out of touch with modern investigative techniques.

Shapiro suggested that the police work was sloppy, particularly in the first few hours after the bodies were discovered. He asked why two experienced detectives stood around at the Bundy Drive crime scene for an hour waiting for Vannatter and his partner Detective Tom Lange to arrive and take over the case rather than looking for suspects in the slayings.

Vannatter said that other uniformed officers were out knocking on doors for leads.

Shapiro also questioned Vannatter on the detective's actions at Simpson's home. Vannatter, like other detectives who testified before him, stated that he and three other detectives went to Rockingham Avenue to inform Simpson of the death. Shapiro asked whether any of the more than 25 other officers at the crime scene could have notified Simpson while the detectives conducted their investigation.

O.J. Simpson's former houseguest Brian "Kato" Kaelin took the witness stand after the defense concluded its cross-examination of Detective Philip Vannatter, the lead investigator in the case.

Vannatter tried to explain two of the mysteries in the case: why there was no cut on the glove found at the murder scene and why there was no blood on the glove found on Simpson's property.

Under questioning by defense attorney Robert Shapiro, Vannatter also acknowledged he misstated several facts when he obtained a warrant to search Simpson's estate.

In other developments:

Judge Lance Ito denied a defense request to show the jurors the knife contained in the "mystery envelope" during Vannatter's testimony. It was revealed that the knife was found in Simpson's master bedroom but is not the murder weapon. The defense will argue that the failure of the police to find the knife reflected their sloppiness in investigating the case.

Simpson's lawyers renewed their attack on DNA evidence, asking for an admissibility hearing on all test results submitted since they abandoned their pretrial challenge of such evidence. The defense said its decision in January to waive a hearing on the admissibility of DNA evidence applied only to results known at the time.

"It would be unfair to force a defendant to decide whether and how to challenge DNA evidence before knowing about that (upcoming) evidence," the defense motion said. "It would be particularly unfair to hold that a defendant's 'waiver' with respect to one set of DNA evidence ... is binding with respect to later-disclosed items of DNA evidence."

The motion didn't specify which test results the defense wants to challenge. But prosecutors have disclosed that one recent test showed a match between Simpson's blood and blood found on a gate at the crime scene.

Inside the court, Kaelin displayed the colorful style that has made him a minor celebrity in the case.

When Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark asked him if he was nervous, he blurted out, "feeling great," sparking laughter in the courtroom. He then said he was "a little" nervous.

He testified that Simpson told him that he had given up attempts to reconcile with Nicole Brown Simpson but that he didn't want his girlfriend, Paula Barbieri, to go with him to his daughter's dance recital on June 12.

"I think she wanted to go ... and O.J. just wanted to make it kind of a family thing," Kaelin said. "I think she was upset that she wasn't going to go."

He described how he met Nicole Brown Simpson in Aspen, Colorado in December 1992, and then moved into her guest house in January 1993. He testified that they were just friends and that he was planning to relocate to the condominium she purchased and moved into in January 1994. Instead, he moved to Simpson's guest house.

When Clark suggested that he moved into Simpson's guest house to boost his budding acting career, Kaelin quipped, "I don't think we were going for the same parts."

Kaelin's testimony came after the defense questioned Vannatter about the "reckless" misstatements the detective made to obtain a search warrant for Simpson's estate.

Judge Ito said the defense could question Vannatter on two statements in a search warrant affidavit: that human blood was found on the Bronco parked outside Simpson's house and that Simpson had taken an "unexpected" flight to Chicago the night of the murders. Vannatter admitted that there were problems with the affidavit. But he said the inconsistencies were not deliberate.

During his questioning, Shapiro tried to show that Vannatter, a 26-year police department veteran, conducted a sloppy investigation and that he is out of touch with modern police techniques.

The defense tried to show that if Simpson dropped the glove on his property and was bleeding at the time, then there should have been blood drops on the property.

"How much blood was found?" Shapiro asked.

"None, none that I'm aware of," Vannatter replied. He also said there wasn't any blood on the wire fence or the adjacent property.

The prosecution has never explained how or when Simpson could have been along the walkway where the glove was found if the drops of blood led from the Ford Bronco outside him home into the foyer inside.

District Attorney Christopher Darden offered the explanation that the area where the glove was found was so overgrown that blood could not be spotted. He asked Vannatter whether police picked up and examined every leaf for blood. Vannatter said they did not.

Darden then asked whether it was possible that the person carrying the glove had put his bleeding finger in his pocket to cover his trail. The defense objected and the question was not answered.

Brian "Kato" Kaelin described his evening with O.J. Simpson in the hours before the murder and described the three loud thumps he heard against the wall of his room that prosecutors believe were made by Simpson as he dropped a glove in an alleyway.

Kaelin appeared much more at ease on the witness stand than he did Tuesday although he seemed at times to be struggling with wanting to tell the truth while not harming Simpson.

"You consider yourself the defendant's friend, don't you, Mr. Kaelin?" Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark said in an aggressive tone.

"Yes," Kaelin answered, adding, "I'm still a friend. I'm -- I know my job is to be 100 percent honest and that's what I'm going to do."

The most dramatic moment of the day came when Kaelin thumped a table in front of the witness stand with a clenched fist to demonstrate the noises he heard at about 10:45 pm on the night of the murders.

During her questioning, Clark guided Kaelin throught the events of June 12 beginning with a conversation he had with Simpson after Simpson returned from his daughter Sydney's dance retital.

Kaelin said Simpson told him that Nicole Brown Simpson did not allow him to spend time with his daughter. Although Simpson seemed upset by the incident, Kaelin said he did not seem angry about it.

Kaelin also said Simpson told him that his relationship with his former wife was over. He also said that Simpson complained of the tight dress Nicole Simpson was wearing at the recital.

Later in the evening, Kaelin said, he and Simpson went to McDonald's and returned to Simpson's estate at about 9:40 pm. Kaelin said he went to his room and made some phone calls, including one to his friend, Rachel Ferrara. During the call, Kaelin said he heard the three thumps sometime between 10:40 pm and 10:45 pm.

Kaelin said that after hearing the thumps he intended to explore the narrow pathway alongside his room where the sounds came from, but admitted he was "scared" at the prospect of going out to the walkway with only a small flashlight.

He eventually left the house but did not investigate the noises because his attention was distracted by a limousine waiting at one of the gates to Simpson's estate to take Simpson to the airport for a flight to Chicago.

He said Simpson subsequently came out of the house and he helped him load his luggage into the limousine. But there was one item, a black knapsack, that Simpson insisted on placing in the trunk personally. The prosecution suspects the bag contained bloody clothes or possibly a weapon.

Clark repeatedly asked Kaelin whether he saw any injuries on Simpson's hands during the evening prior to the murder. Kaelin said he did not. The prosecution believes the cuts on the middle finger of Simpson's left hand that police saw on June 13 were suffered during the fatal attack on Ronald Goldman.

In another development, prosecutors filed a motion seeking to show the jury autopsy photos of the victims.

The prosecution said the photos are "far less startling" than the crime scene pictures that the jury has already seen.

"The autopsy photographs clearly depicting the stab wounds and other injuries . . . will be particularly probative to establish that one person and one knife could have caused this carnage," the motion said.

The prosecution concluded its direct examination of Brian "Kato" Kaelin, with Marcia Clark pressing him about his reasons for not moving in with Nicole Brown Simpson at her condominium.

The intense questioning was aimed at portraying Simpson as a possessive ex-husband who would do almost anything to keep men away from his former wife.

Kaelin testified that Simpson had told him it "wasn't right" that Kaelin live under the same roof with Nicole Simpson while the two were trying to reconcile. But Clark tried to get Kaelin to admit that Simpson was really worried about a possible sexual relationship between Kaelin and Nicole Simpson.

Kaelin previously testified that he planned to move into a room in Nicole Simpson's condominium that she purchased in Janaury 1994.

"Did she try to get you to move out of (Simpson's estate on) Rockingham?" Clark asked.

"Yes," he said.

When Clark again asked him why didn't move, Kaelin said, Simpson "didn't say, because of having romance with her. That didn't come up like that because I think it was a given that I wasn't. But he was saying it wasn't right for you to be, a man-to-man thing, where you are going to be in the same house with his children and Nicole. They're trying to work things out, so, I moved out."

Clark countered: "And he never said 'I don't like the idea of a man living under the same roof with Nicole?' He never said that?"

"That it wasn't right for me, to be in the same house, a man, in that same house with Nicole and the children," he said.

"What did you take that to mean, Mr. Kaelin?" Clark asked again.

"That it could possibly have been that he was thinking that I might be with Nicole," Kaelin said.

"Sexually?" Clark asked.

"Possibly, that he was thinking that, yes," Kaelin said.

Clark also asked a short series of questions to reiterate that Kaelin did not see Simpson from the time the two returned from McDonald's at 9:37 pm on June 12 until 11 pm when he saw Simpson getting into the limousine for the ride to the airport.

The court was in recess. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print