September 20, 1995
From Correspondent Anne McDermott
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran will be allowed to talk as long as they like in closing arguments -- as long as they don't repeat themselves. If they do, said Judge Lance Ito, he'll shut them up. His words of wisdom to the lawyers: "Be prepared ... be ready ... be concise."
Prosecutors called Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Keith Bushey to the stand Wednesday in an effort to counter a defense attack on Los Angeles Police Detective Philip Vannatter, who said he went to Simpson's house simply to notify Simpson of the murders.
On Tuesday, the defense had presented witnesses who said Vannatter told them he went to Simpson's house because Simpson was a suspect. But Ito said the fact that the alleged conversations took place in casual, beer-drinking, cigarette- smoking venues prompted him to give them little weight.
Bushey said he ordered his officers at the scene of the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman to notify the next kin, particularly O.J. Simpson, as soon as possible.
Bushey said his earlier experience with the high profile death of comedian John Belushi in 1983 guided his decision.
"The Belushi situation was very troubling for me personally because the time frame from that time that his body was discovered until the media had that information was very, very short, and I felt very bad at the number of his relatives who most certainly learned about his death through the media," he said.
Bushey was asked if the Simpson case got preferential treatment. Yes, he said, because he knew it would be closely scrutinized.
Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran pointed out that it took a while before officers carried out Bushey's order.
"Would you be surprised that the notification was made after five o'clock in the morning, perhaps two-and-a-half hours later?" he asked.
"I would have preferred the notification happen before that," Bushey replied.
Cochran later seemed to lose his temper with Bushey (49K aiff or 49K wav). Then the court reporters, whose job is to record his words, lost patience with Cochran. The defense attorney sometimes speaks quickly, and speaks over answers. Tuesday, according to the transcript of a sidebar conference, Ito warned Cochran of the court reporters' anger.
"They said, 'If Cochran is doing the next witness, I am quitting,'" Ito said.
Ito warned that the jurors might also be losing patience with the lawyers.
"Now counsel," Ito said, "I realize that we are all tired, and we wish this were over sooner than later, but this kind of petty bickering is not appropriate, and if you heard the snickering of the jurors as they were going out, they think it was pretty silly, too." (144K aiff or 144K wav)
Ito said he expects the jurors will hear the last of the witnesses this week. One they won't hear from is the FBI's Frederic Whitehurst, a critic of FBI agent Roger Martz. Martz testified earlier that blood samples he tested did not contain a blood preservative.
In a two-page ruling Wednesday, Ito said Whitehurst had "no direct or specific knowledge concerning the testing done by Martz. To put Whitehurst on the stand would only serve to aggravate and confuse the sequestered jury," Ito ruled.
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