CNN O.J. Simpson Trial

Phillip Vannatter

Defense aims to undermine second detective

September 17, 1995
Web posted at: 9:10 a.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- O.J. Simpson's defense team is beefing up a behind-the-scenes effort to impeach the credibility of a second key detective who investigated the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, CNN has learned. Detective Philip L. Vannatter, along with detective Mark Fuhrman, was one of the lead investigators in the case.

A potential conflict being explored by the defense team involves statements Vannatter allegedly made before a witness in another case and another law enforcement officer. Vannatter reportedly said that when police went to Simpson's Brentwood estate just hours after the murders on June 12, 1994, they already considered Simpson a suspect.

Nicole Brown SimpsonRon Goldman

If that is true, the defense could use the statement to contradict not only Vannatter, but also other detectives who have testified that they went to Simpson's home merely to inform him of his ex-wife's death and to arrange for the safe custody of Simpson's two small children.

Sources close to the defense told CNN that Simpson's attorneys plan to ask the court for a hearing to introduce the statement and to possibly to recall Vannatter to the stand during its rebuttal case. This would fit in with the defense strategy to portray not just Fuhrman, but also other Los Angeles police officers as liars who set out to frame their client for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Prosecutors turned over "discovery" material concerning Vannatter to the defense on Friday. "Information came to our attention this week that may pertain to previously litigated search and seizure issues in the Simpson case," prosecutors said in a statement. "An inquiry was immediately conducted, and in an abundance of caution, our office promptly brought the matter to the attention of the court and defense attorneys. ... Because we anticipate that the matter may be subject to a hearing next week, no further information will be provided. We anticipate only a minimal delay in the proceedings and remain eager and hopeful to quickly get the case to the jury."

Vannatter could not be reached for comment. But one source close to the prosecution told CNN the detective doesn't remember making the comment, and that it has been overblown by the defense.


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