CNN O.J. Simpson Trial

Simpson trial nears final phase, climax

From Correspondent Jim Hill

September 24, 1995
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- It took lawyers on both sides several months to present their cases in the O.J. Simpson trial. Now they have maybe the most difficult task: summarizing it all for the jurors. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Tuesday after a break for the Jewish New Year holiday.

Unlike last week, when he spoke dramatically before being interrupted by Judge Lance Ito(2.3M QuickTime movie), O.J. Simpson must remain silent. And unlike last week, each side will have plenty to tell the jury. Experts agree this week's closing arguments will be critical after more than eight months of trial testimony. "A trial is like a jig-saw puzzle and closing argument is when the lawyers put the pieces together," says Erwin Chemerinsky, a law school professor at the University of Southern California who has been following the case.

Prosecutors have tried to show with their witnesses and exhibits that there is a mountain of evidence against the ex- football star. "What she's (prosecutor Marcia Clark) going to need to do is persuade the jury that O.J. Simpson had the opportunity to commit the murders," explains Chermerinsky. "And that the physical evidence beyond a reasonable doubt shows that Simpson did so."(123K AIFF sound or 245K WAV sound)

A key to that argument is the DNA test results of a blood trail from the crime scene to Simpson's home. Also, prosecutors have mapped out a detailed timeline. It places Simpson at the crime scene at about 10:15 p.m., when prosecutors say the howling of Nicole Brown Simpson's dog marked the time of death.

The defense will argue there is reasonable doubt, and that conflicting timeline testimony and a police conspiracy provide just that. "The defense is going to argue there's so much contamination in the collection of evidence that it deprives it of any reliability and there's good indication that some of the key evidence was planted by the police," says Chermerinsky. (168K AIFF sound or 333K WAV sound)

A central theme of the alleged police conspiracy is that detective Mark Fuhrman planted evidence out of racist motives. The defense is expected to replay video tape of the former detective and audio tapes of his racist remarks to a screen writer. Defense attorneys argued to limit closing arguments to one day for each side. Ito rejected that idea, which may cause arguments to run into the following week.

It is hard to know what impact the closing arguments may have, but experts say they can change minds. They can also give persuasive force and focus to the arguments of jurors as they discuss and debate the issue of Simpson's guilt or innocence.


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