By: M.L. Stein
JUDGE LANCE ITO, for the second time, closed the door on the O.J. Simpson defense team’s efforts to force a journalist to testify before the jury about police leaks to the media.
However, Ito held off a ruling on a second reporter who allegedly received similar information from a police source concerning tests on blood from Simpson’s socks. The judge said he would hear arguments on the defense’s request to call KNBC-TV Los Angeles reporter Tracie Savage to the stand after she returns from a vacation.
But New Orleans-based writer Joseph Bosco was seemingly off the hook as Ito ruled Aug. 14 that leaks, whether accurate or inaccurate, have no probative impact in the double murder trial, terming their value “very slight to the point of being irrelevant.”
He also noted that airing the issue would be “an undue use of the court’s time.”
Both Savage and Bosco have stood behind the California shield law to avoid testifying about their sources.
On Aug. 9, Ito denied defense motions to bring Bosco and Savage to the stand for the jury to discover the source of the leaks, their refusal could have led to their being held in contempt. Out of the jury’s presence, the two subpoenaed journalists refused to name their sources under defense questioning.
In the latest round on the issue, the defense said it would seek only to verify the accuracy of the journalists’ sources and not probe for their identities.
Again, without the jury present, Simpson lawyer Gerald Uelmen argued that the purpose of putting Bosco on the stand would be to show that some Los Angeles Police Department members who collected evidence in the Simpson case were either “manipulative, careless, corrupt or incompetent.”
In reference to alleged mistakes made by officers and police laboratory technicians in handling evidence, Uelmen declared the leaks were intended as a “restoration of a tarnished reputation of the Los Angeles Police Department . . . . You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that what was going on was news management ? control of the spin.”
The defense has for weeks sought the opportunity to implant in the jurors’ minds its contention that police framed Simpson by dabbing victim Nicole Brown Simpson’s blood on the socks found in his bedroom the day after the murders. Brown, Simpson’s ex-wife, and Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death June 12, 1994.
Deputy District Attorney Hank Goldberg called the leaks a “non-issue, immaterial and irrelevant.”
In a sly dig at the frequent availability of defense lawyers, particularly Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., for impromptu press conferences outside the courtroom, Goldberg commented: “I guess you can call press conferences leaks. Can we infer that this is an effort to shape public opinion with their particular viewpoint?”
Bosco, who is writing a book about the Simpson case, noted in a Penthouse article that a police source was offering information to the media but that he ignored it. Savage, however, aired a story based on the tip she received about the blood tests, reporting that the DNA tests indicated Nicole’s blood was on the socks. The report was inaccurate since no tests had been performed on the socks at that point. But subsequent tests revealed that blood with genetic markers identical to those of Nicole turned up on the socks.