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The O.J. Simpson defense team is a tough legal machine powered by the savvy and showmanship of world class litigators, the scholarly talents of a law school dean, and the research expertise of young lawyers.

And they are ready to play hardball.During pretrial hearings and through media leaks, they have attempted to sully a police detective's reputation with accusations of racism and to paint police technicians as careless bumblers.

Their numbers alone are enough to intimidate any opposition: There are 10 attorneys, plus a backup staff of forensic experts, researchers, DNA experts and private detectives - an unusually large contingent for the defense of one man.

In the legal constellation of 10, there are four superstars: Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran Jr., F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz. Only Shapiro and Cochran are expected to take active roles in court, but Bailey's flair for drama and his behind-the-scenes strategizing with longtime friend Shapiro could play heavily into the defense plan.

Shapiro, the self-described captain of the defense ship, is likely to have some competition for the helm. A smooth-talking, well-liked lawyer who has specialized in representing stars of sports and entertainment, his reputation is as a savvy "fixer."

He has negotiated plea bargains in high-profile cases, including a murder charge against Marlon Brando's son, Christian. Legal observers say Shapiro is smart, ethical and reasonable. But his courtroom style is an enigma.

His clients have included Johnny Carson, singer Rod Stewart and baseball stars Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco and Vince Coleman. Shapiro took over the Simpson case from another celebrity attorney, Howard Weitzman.

Shapiro surprised many when he announced that Cochran, a close friend of Simpson's, was joining the defense team.

A former assistant district attorney, Cochran is known for taking center stage at trials and staying there. He is revered for his skill as a courtroom performer, whether representing aggrieved citizens in police abuse cases or the rich and famous, including singer Michael Jackson.

Can these two legal superegos co-exist?

"What I would expect is that Johnnie Cochran would step to the fore and Shapiro would melt into the background a little more," Los Angeles defense attorney Harland Braun said.

If Shapiro and Cochran fight for control, Braun said, "then the ultimate decision will rest with the one person whose life is on the line, and that's O.J."

Less pivotal but equally prominent will be Gerald Uelmen, retiring dean of the Santa Clara University Law School. A constitutional law scholar and former president of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, the white-haired Uelmen exudes quiet authority. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito respectfully addresses him as "Dean Uelmen."

With DNA evidence critical to Simpson's trial, the defense also includes two aggressive New York lawyers, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, known as the nation's foremost challengers of DNA evidence.

Rounding out the team are four talented young lawyers - two from Shapiro's firm and two from Cochran's - who are researching, writing and examining mountains of evidence.

Are there too many directors running this show? Not necessarily, said Loyola University Law professor Laurie Levenson.

"The benefit of having many different minds at work is you can come up with a lot of creative defenses," she said. "The only problem is you can't use all of them."