A hearing to determine if O.J. Simpson can be tried for the slayings of his wife and a friend opened Thursday with the judge settling a dispute over how many of Simpson's hairs can be submitted as evidence.
Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell ordered that Simp-son provide up to 10 hairs for tests to see if they match hair found near the bodies. The prosecution sought as many as needed, saying several should be tested from each area of his head, but Simpson's attorney asked that only one strand be given.The goal of the hearing is a decision on whether Simpson should be tried for murder in the June 12 slayings of Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald Goldman, 25, a friend of hers.
But it began with more discussion over evidence. A possibly more significant dispute emerged in a court filing - a defense motion seeking exclusion of evidence seized hours after the slayings.
Meanwhile, a Deseret News/ KSL poll conducted last week by Dan Jones & Associates found that 51 percent of Utahns think Simpson definitely or probably killed his ex-wife and her friend. Only 10 percent think Simpson innocent of the charges, while 39 percent didn't know or said people should wait for a trial verdict. (See graphic with this story.)
The court also heard from the first prosecution witness, Michele Kestler, assistant director of the Los Angeles Police Department crime lab. She described various pieces of evidence and how many samples can be shared with the defense for independent analysis.
Simpson, no longer under a suicide watch, wore a tie in court for the first time since he was charged. A crowd cheered and waved as the van carrying the former football star pulled into the courthouse garage.
Dozens of people hoping for seats at the hearing began lining up outside the Criminal Courts Building at 12:30 a.m. Thursday. A sheriff's sergeant emerged about 7 a.m. with bad news for most of them: Just 10 seats were reserved for the public.
"I went to school with him at USC and I met him several times," said one disappointed would-be viewer, Georgiana Dickson. "I'm very upset that I can't get in. I'm enraged about it."
There are no known eyewitnesses to the killings. Media reports, some unconfirmed, suggest that prosecutors have a circumstantial case that relies on clues such as strands of hair, a ski cap and pair of gloves, bloodstains and phone records showing the time of Nicole Simpson's last telephone call. The murder weapon has not been found.
Prosecutors refused to reveal their witness lineup, but it appeared certain it would include the person who found the bodies, law enforcement officers and coroner's investigators, scientists who analyzed bloodstains and other evidence, a caretaker at Simpson's estate and the limousine driver who took Simp-son to the airport for an 11:45 p.m. flight on June 12. The bodies were found at 12:05 a.m. June 13.
Simpson's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, has acknowledged that the football Hall of Famer will probably be ordered to stand trial.
The question at hand is not Simpson's guilt but "whether there is some rational ground for assuming the possibility that an offense has been committed and the accused is guilty of it," said Loyola University Law School Professor Laurie Levenson.
The day before the hearing Simpson's lawyers filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized from Simpson's Brentwood home shortly after the killings.
According to the motion filed late Wednesday, detectives searching the grounds of the estate after scaling the fence improperly viewed the premises without a warrant.
The motion said police went there at 5 a.m. to tell Simpson of his ex-wife's death, found the house locked and got no response from a gate intercom. Police got a phone number from a home security company that rang at an answering machine, the motion stated.
"Rather than leave a message, one of the detectives climbed over the 5-foot wall protecting the defendant's residence, opened the gate and admitted the remaining detectives," the motion said.
Deseret News/ KSL poll
From what you know or have heard, do you think O.J. Simpton is guilty of killing his wife and her friend?
PROBABLY NOT 6%
DEFINITELY NOT 4%
DON'T KNOW/NEEDS TRIAL 39%
Margin of error +- 3.0% on interviews of 1,000 registered voters.
Poll conducted June 21-23, 1994, by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients also include other organizations and some political candidates.