LOS ANGELES -- With his reputation and the murder case against O.J. Simpson on the line, Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman took the witness stand yesterday to describe his actions during the investigation, to fend off allegations that he is a racist who may have planted evidence and to deny ever having met a witness who accuses him of making racially inflammatory comments.
Speaking softly but in a clear voice, Detective Fuhrman told the jury he was "nervous, reluctant" about testifying in a case that has thrust him into the spotlight and made him one of the trial's most potentially important witnesses.
"Throughout, since June 13, it seems that I've seen a lot of the evidence ignored and a lot of personal issues come to the forefront," Detective Fuhrman said in response to Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark's first question to him. "I think that's too bad."
Detective Fuhrman captivated the nation last summer when he testified during the preliminary hearing that he found a key piece of evidence in the case, a bloody glove that he said he found behind O.J. Simpson's Brentwood estate. Since then, he has been on the receiving end of intense investigation and searing criticism by Simpson defense team members, who have called him a racist and have suggested that he may have planted the glove.
The glove is potentially crucial prosecution evidence, both because it matches one found at the crime scene and because prosecutors say that DNA tests of blood smeared on it contain genetic markers consistent with a mixture of the blood of both victims and Simpson. Mr. Simpson, who is black, has pleaded not guilty to the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman. Both victims were white.
The questioning began slowly, with Ms. Clark initially fending off an expected defense attack on a practice session that prosecutors put Detective Fuhrman through last month as they prepared him to testify. Defense attorneys have sought information about that session.
Detective Fuhrman acknowledged that he had been through it, but said it was not focused on his conduct during the investigation.
"The issues we were concerned with weren't evidentiary in nature or about the crime," Detective Fuhrman said. "Mostly of a personal nature."
In his questioning yesterday, Detective Fuhrman emphatically said he had never met Kathleen Bell, a real estate agent who alleged in a sworn declaration that the detective had made racist comments to her in 1985 or 1986. According to Ms. Bell, Detective Fuhrman said he was repulsed by interracial couples and would make up evidence to implicate them if given the chance -- a statement that, if true, could raise questions about Detective Fuhrman's attitude toward Mr. Simpson.
Detective Fuhrman had been expected to face those allegations under cross-examination, but prosecutors chose to confront them head on.
Outside court, Simpson attorney F. Lee Bailey -- who is expected to handle the cross-examination of Detective Fuhrman when prosecutors conclude with him today or next week -- said the defense has a witness who will confirm that Ms. Bell and Detective Fuhrman had met on at least one occasion.