Prosecution may be OJ's best defence

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The Independent Online
After five months, 92 days of testimony, 58 witnesses, 488 pieces of evidence, 10 dismissed jurors and 34,500 pages of court transcripts, the prosecution in the trial of OJ Simpson has rested its case.

Without flourish, Marcia Clarke, the chief prosecutor, announced: "At this time, subject to the receipt of people's exhibits into evidence,the people rest."

The prosecution ended in much the same way that it began in February when tapes of emergency calls by Nicole Simpson calling for help during an incident of domestic violence involving Mr Simpson were played to the court; with defence attorneys suggesting the evidence was mishandled and with the jury shadowed by allegations of misconduct.

Experts are now asking what the exhaustive case against Mr Simpson actually has amounted to. The motive the prosecution has presented is simple: Mr Simpson was a controlling husband who tried to dominate his wife with violence. He finally killed her in an ultimate act of control.

The prosecution alleges that the murders were committed around 10.15pm on 12 June 1994 when Mr Simpson stabbed and incapacitated his ex-wife, then killed Ronald Goldman who showed up to return a pair of glasses. Mr Simpson, in a final act, cut Nicole's throat.

Prosecutors say physical evidence ties Simpson to crime, including a trail of blood, and they estimate the odds that the DNA of the blood found at the scene was anyone other than Simpson's are 1 in 170 million.

However, the evidence against the former football player is entirely circumstantial. No murder weapon has been recovered, there were no witnesses; no clear motive has been presented.

The prosecution has placed OJ convincingly at the scene of the crime. But their case has been mired in carelessness and sloppy testimony, capped by a disastrous demonstration of a glove supposedly used by the accused, which did not fit his massive hands.

The chief defence lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, has said he expects the defence to last for five weeks. Technically, Mr Simpson does not have to put on any defence and his legal team will call routinely for the double murder charges to be thrown out. But, with a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him, a "no-defence" defence is not a viable strategy.

On Monday, the defence is expected to call its first witness. A list submitted to the court so far includes six people who are expected to testify that they met him in, or on his way to, Chicago on the night of the murders. The crucial decision is whether to put Mr Simpson on the stand.

Sources close to the defence say that his lawyers believe they can win an acquittal without Mr Simpson testifying. If Mr Simpson has admitted his guilt to the defence it is ethically impossible for them to put him on the stand. It would be a risky proposition in any event.

"The case is going well enough that the risks seem to outweigh the benefits," says Harland Braun, a noted defence lawyer. "All he is going to say is ,'I didn't do it.' He can't explain the DNA or the other stuff even if he is innocent."

Instead, the defence will probably try to restore Simpson's image and character with glowing references from relatives -including his 71-year- old mother, sister and oldest daughter.

All will testify that he did not behave strangely during the weeks and hours leading up to the murders.

"Hopefully ,this case survived the prosecution," said Mr Braun. "They basically took a case that was overwhelming and created a reasonable doubt."