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JUDGE ITO REINS IN LAWYERS, UNVEILS HIS ASSERTIVE SIDE

Who was that bearded man?

It certainly couldn't have been Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who has been belittled by some for not bringing a semblance of control to the playground he calls his court of law.But there he was Tuesday, robed and hirsute as usual - only with a new personality. The O.J. Simpson judge was glaring at lawyers, cutting them off in midsentence, telling them their questions were irrelevant and refusing their requests for sidebar talks.

Ito unveiled his assertive side on the first day of testimony since the Simpson trial was hobbled by a remarkable juror revolt. Thirteen of the sequestered panelists had refused to hear testimony to protest the reassignment of three of their guards.

The judge had adjusted his courtroom style only slightly after an avalanche of criticism from legal pundits. But after meeting with the jurors, he apparently took their concerns to heart. For the first time in a long while, it looked as if the trial of the century wouldn't last until the end of the millennium.

"It's a welcome and refreshing change," Southwestern University law professor Robert Pugsley said.

Testimony continued Wednesday, when defense attorney Peter Neufeld was to complete his tough cross-examination of police criminalist Andrea Mazzola.

Mazzola continued to testify in relative obscurity Tuesday, her statements overshadowed first by the juror rebellion and then by Ito's new courtroom command.

In her second day on the stand, Mazzola was grilled relentlessly about her collection of crucial evidence after the June 12 knife slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson's attorneys claim that the evidence collection was so sloppy the results of genetic tests are useless.