September 22, 1995
Web posted at: 7:50 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jim Moret
LOS ANGELES(CNN)--Finally, Judge Lance Ito's ready to wrap the so-called trial of the century. He wants the lawyers, and the exhibits, ready to start final arguments Tuesday morning.
More than eight months after opening statements began, this real-life "who-done-it", lurches toward a close with short- tempers on all sides.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark got into an expensive snit with Judge Ito when the prosecution team failed to show up on time for a morning meeting. Judge Ito imposed a $250 fine. That set off some rhetorical fireworks. "Excuse me, your honor. may I remind the court that Mr. Shapiro kept the court waiting for 20 minutes showing up at 20 after nine when it was his witness on the stand and suffered no sanction," said Clark.
"Thank you. The sanction will be a thousand dollars," was Ito's retort.
Later, the judge reduced the fine to the original $250.
Earlier in the week, Clark was really showing the strain, when, first thing Wednesday morning, she confessed her weariness. "Your honor, I'm so tired," said Clark.
"This has been a mind-numbing experience," said Ito.
Later the same day, lawyers from both sides got into verbal fisticuffs in open court, over something they'd supposedly settled, earlier. The issue: The kind of syringe used to take blood from O.J. Simpson on the day after the murders. "It's astonishing to me what we have sunk to. That we have to argue over waxing and waning...the syringe...this is incredible for both sides. We'll take a recess for 15 minutes if there is no stipulation, then we will have some more testimony I guess, thank you," said Ito.
Ito's rebuke betrayed his impatience with a defense concern that jurors understand how much moonlight there had been on the night of the murders.
Only days earlier, the courtroom had seen humor in the question of whether jurors would understand references to a "waning" or "waxing" moon. "Everybody knows that," said Ito. "Who in this courtroom doesn't know that?" The defense team, including O.J. Simpson, raised their hands.
In the early days of the trial, Judge Ito said he hoped it would end with the lawyers on such friendly terms that he could have a post-trial dinner with all of them. This week, Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran reminded Ito of that invitation. The judge had a grimly humorous reply, "It will still be my fondest hope Mr. Cochran, as I mentioned to your colleague Dean Uelman, I suspected at this point the invitation as only open to him and Mr. Hodgman."
"I understand, the rest of us will be trying to get back into your good graces," said Cochran.
"Back on the dinner list?" asked Ito.
"We are trying real hard to do that," said Cochran.
Even the ever-smooth Johnnie Cochran has provided moments of un-intended laughter. Consider the effort to characterize the defense as un-complaining and diligent in its task. "Throughout this trial we have moved forward in the water like a shark...bad analogy...shark is probably not a good analogy, " said Cochran dealing with laughter in the courtroom. Cochran tried to recover by saying, "We moved like a dolphin... graceful...but seriously judge...,"
With the end of the long and historic trial seemingly in sight, even the most serious matters took on a slightly slapstick aura.
Over the prosecution's objection, Judge Ito told the lawyers he was going to give the jury special instructions about the infamous dream testimony of prosecution witness Ron Shipp.
"But don't you think that if I perceived a significant problem and if I can avoid this case coming back by giving it an appropriate instruction, better late than never?" asked Ito.
The reply from prosecutor Brian Kelberg was, "No I don't think so your honor because...because...Shipp happens, to be honest with you."
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