O.J. judge bans Fuhrman evidence

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — The judge in O.J. Simpson’s wrongful death trial barred Mark Fuhrman’s previous testimony, a big blow to the defense but also Simpson’s best ammunition for a possible appeal.
Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki’s ruling Monday essentially renders the ex-detective a Simpson case memory, crippling any defense effort to elicit evidence that Fuhrman is a lying racist who could have framed Simpson.
Lacking the Fuhrman material, defense lawyer Robert Baker probably can refer to some slim, circumstantial possibilities during closing arguments that unidentified police with unknown motives may have planted or tampered with evidence.
“It does real damage,” said Laurie Levenson, Loyola University Law School dean. “They’ve already had some of the other parts of their case cut out. Now they have lost the ability to play the race card. Mark Fuhrman’s is the picture on the race card.”
Still, the ruling is so sweeping that Simpson can use it as a major point on appeal if he loses, said Southwestern University law professor Robert Pugsley.
“This without a doubt is the judge’s most risky use of discretion,” he said. “If there is one single error on which a liability verdict could be reversed, this would probably be it.”
The ruling came as the plaintiffs’ case against Simpson sped toward its climax: the testimony by Simpson himself, probably on Friday.
Simpson, 49, was acquitted last year in the killings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The victims’ relatives are suing Simpson for unspecified damages.
The plaintiffs are using this week to present the domestic violence evidence — including accounts of three fights between Simpson and his ex-wife — all through the eyes of police officers or a security guard.
In his ruling, Fujisaki said the law forbids calling a witness just to discredit him, and all the details Fuhrman could have provided have been covered by other witnesses.
The defense also can’t offer any other evidence to challenge Fuhrman. The tape recordings of Fuhrman’s racial epithets during talks with an aspiring screenwriter will be off-limits.
In addition, the defense can’t tell jurors about Fuhrman’s no-contest plea to felony perjury for lying about using that slur in the past decade.
And unlike the black-majority jury in the criminal trial, this panel has only one black juror and one black alternate.