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DNA LAWYER TORN BETWEEN CASES ON 2 COASTS

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Contrary to the image projected by reporters and TV cameras, O.J. Simpson's lawyers aren't really everywhere at once.

Just ask Peter Neufeld of New York, a DNA lawyer extra-or-di-naire who's torn between two defendants in a bicoastal problem that could, conceivably, land him in jail with Simpson.He's due to start a trial in New York Monday and appear at a hearing in Simpson's case in California on Dec. 12 - two murder trials, two coasts, and three judges who aren't cutting him any slack.

The record is fuzzy on just how Neufeld got into this fix, and lawyers and court papers give conflicting accounts of even who said what to whom.

But lawyers say scheduling problems are as much a part of their practice as long hours in the library. The court system is so erratic and so overloaded that conflicts are inevitable.

Usually, however, a solution is worked out, either because a client is willing to wait or because a judge agrees to a change in order to avoid angering a colleague.

"Everyone recognizes how difficult it is to schedule trials and lawyer appearances," said Stephen Yagman, a lawyer used to the expectation that he can be in two or more places at once.

Much is at stake for Simpson, who has pleaded innocent in the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The crux of the prosecution case is DNA analysis of blood samples - the evidence Neufeld was hired to challenge.

Neufeld faces contempt charges if he fails to show up in one court or the other, and Simpson's expressed desire for an early trial may be in jeopardy.

If Neufeld remains in New York, Simpson might have to agree to delay the DNA hearing until well into next year.

Still, Simpson could proceed with the other half of his DNA team, Barry Scheck, who has already argued some matters in court, or he could hire another lawyer, who'd have little time to prepare.

Meanwhile, the two judges in New York have shown no patience for Neufeld's plight, suggesting he's dumping his pro bono client in New York to pursue fame and fortune in California.