Defense lawyer rebuts charge that Simpson's 'bloody glove' was tampered with
A member of O.J. Simpson’s defense team on Saturday vigorously rebutted a former prosecutor’s charge that lead attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. had tampered with the famous “bloody glove” that was a key piece of evidence in the football star’s acquittal.
During the trial in the stabbing deaths of Simpson's former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman, Simpson tried on bloody gloves and held up his hands in front of the jury box to let everyone see the leather bunched up around his broad palms and that they wouldn't fit. That demonstration became a powerful symbol for the defense, summed up by Cochran: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
Several jurors cited the too-tight gloves as a key reason for voting to acquit Simpson. But this week, Christopher Darden, one of the prosecutors on the case, told Reuters news service and a law school audience that he believed Cochran — who is now dead — manipulated the glove.
"As members of the defense team, Carl Douglas and I were present in court on the day that Chris Darden asked O.J. Simpson to try on the glove,” attorney Shawn Holley said in a statement to The Times. “Mr. Darden's self-serving assertion that Johnnie Cochran tampered with the glove--or any piece of evidence--is false, malicious and slanderous.
“Almost 20 years later, it seems Mr. Darden is still trying to exculpate himself from one of the biggest blunders in the history of jurisprudence."
On Thursday, during a panel discussion about the trial at Pace Law School in New York City, Darden declared: "I think Johnnie tore the lining. There were some additional tears in the lining so that O.J.'s fingers couldn't go all the way up into the glove."
Darden said in a follow-up interview Friday that he noticed that when Simpson was trying on a glove for the jury its structure appeared to have changed. "A bailiff told me the defense had it during the lunch hour." He said he wasn't specifically accusing anyone, adding: "It's been my suspicion for a long time that the lining has been manipulated."
The glove incident was seen as the pivotal moment in the 1995 trial.
At the time, Darden tried to explain how the glove would not fit Simpson by bringing in expert Richard Rubin, who "testified that moisture had caused the extra-large leather gloves to shrink nearly a full size and lose much of their elasticity," according to a Times report. Rubin said "the gloves in their original condition would easily go onto the hand of someone of Mr. Simpson's size."
[Rubin] added that he tried an experiment after court Thursday: He put on a pair of latex liners [Simpson wore them to avoid contaminating evidence] like the one Simpson wore, and tried to put on his own gloves. Pulling them over his hands, he testified, was more difficult with the latex liners.
Darden then picked up a line of questioning he had ignored Thursday, asking Rubin about when, why and how much leather gloves shrink.
Wearing a cheery Snoopy tie and looking relaxed, Rubin testified that gloves can shrink up to 15% if they are drenched in moisture. Even if stretched, the crime scene gloves could never return to more than 92% of their original size, he said.
"These gloves," Rubin added, "will never return to their original size and shape."
Cochran died in 2005. But others who worked with the defense rejected Darden's charges as a total fabrication.
"Having made the greatest legal blunder of the 20th century," Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz told Reuters, "[Darden's] trying to blame it on the dead man."
So what is the background of the gloves? During the trial, prosecutors tried to show they actually belonged to victim Nicole Brown Simpson.
Bloomingdale's buyer Brenda Vemich identified a credit card receipt, signed by Nicole Brown, for the $77 purchase of two pairs of Aris Isotoner gloves.
She testified that the gloves Nicole Simpson bought on Dec. 18, 1990, were called Aris Isotoner leather lights--the same expensive style, she said, as the gloves found at the crime scene and at Simpson's estate.
But on cross-examination, Vemich acknowledged that she could not tell from the receipt what size or color gloves Nicole Simpson had purchased.
-- Shelby Grad and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: O.J. Simpson in court in 1995. Credit: Associated Press