September 26, 1995
Web posted at: 1:25 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Charles Feldman
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The last time jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial will hear from the attorneys for both sides prior to the start of deliberations will be during closing arguments. In this case, that may be one of the most important phases of the entire trial.
Remember the testimony? All that testimony? Days and weeks and months of testimony? Remember how complex and dry some of the scientific testimony was? Testimony such as: "If we make the assumption that a blueprint contains all the information for how to build your house, the DNA...the analogy is, DNA contains all the information on how to build you," said Robin Cotton from Cellmark Diagnostics, describing to the court the background of DNA. (145K AIFF sound or 145K WAV sound)
When the jurors, who sit in judgment of O.J. Simpson, go behind closed doors in an effort to decide his fate, they too must wade through all that testimony and put it into some context. That's why closing arguments are so very important. "You have a mountain of testimony, and very detailed technical testimony at that...that has to be brought together in an organized fashion and I think it's going to be a momentous, monumental task for the lawyers on each side to attempt to pull all this together," said Howard Price a criminal defense attorney. (179K AIFF sound or 179K WAV sound)
Closing arguments are an important part of most trials. It's the last opportunity for lawyers to dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's" for the jury panel. But in this trial, it may mean much more. "I believe that the closing arguments in this case are going to be decisive. They're sort of the be- all and end-all of this case," said attorney Gerald Chaleff.
For the prosecution, experts say it will be imperative to convince the jury that there really is a mountain of evidence against Simpson. What's more, the government must show how all the bits and pieces of evidence fit together to support its theory of how Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered. Then, there's the so-called 'Fuhrman problem'. Former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman that is.
Jurors have only heard snippets of hours of recorded conversation Fuhrman made with a would-be screenwriter, but that may be enough for the defense to try to impeach his credibility. So, what do prosecutors do to cut their losses? "They've got to vilify him, I think," said Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola University Law School. "I think they've got to say, 'look, we are stuck with the police we've got, look, he's obviously a racist and a liar, if we had known he was a liar we wouldn't have put him on the stand, but we've got to tell you, we don't have to believe a word he said to convict in this case because of all the other evidence.'"
Experts say prosecutors are likely to do one other thing: remind the jury about defense promises made during opening statements that were not kept. "I think it's fair game for the prosecution to comment on promises that were made in the opening statement by the defense and to say that 'they promised you this, they promised you that, where is this evidence? Where is this witness?' For example, Rosa Lopez, where is Mary Ann Gerchas?" said attorney Richard Hirsch.
Closing arguments from the defense will have to accomplish something else: the lawyers will try to convince the jurors to disregard the DNA results. "One can assume they may very well say something like, 'take away the scientific evidence and what you have is two people who were brutally murdered and a barking dog,'" said Myrna Raeder, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law.
While the rest of a trial has more to do with evidence than presentation, during closing arguments, experts say, good theater is just as important. "The courtroom is drama and in fact there are many people out there now who are teaching attorneys how to act in court...how to stand, how to gesture, how to relate to the jury," said Hirsch.
But while the lawyers will have center stage during closing arguments, it will be the jurors who must write the ending to this most operatic of dramas.
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