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POTENTIAL O.J. WITNESS FEARS `BROILING'

A man who says he witnessed racist behavior by a key detective in the O.J. Simpson case said Friday he's backing out of testifying at Simpson's murder trial to spare himself the humiliation of being savaged on the stand.

Phill Coleman said friends and relatives have urged him not to subject himself to the "broiling" other witnesses have endured."They're concerned about my credibility," the black former retailer said. "Why do it? Why walk in there and be decimated for no other purpose than entertainment?

"If I get up there, Marcia Clark will want to know what lie I told when I was 6 years old," he said of the lead prosecutor.

Coleman sent a letter to defense counsel Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. asking that his name be removed from the witness list. He said he believes the trial has become "something akin to a real-life TV game show," and he wants no part of it.

"Everyone seems to have forgotten that two people have been killed and a man is on trial for his freedom," Coleman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"If I'm required to testify, I will," he said. "I would come forward if it made the difference between him being convicted or acquitted."

Coleman, 45, said he stands by his earlier statements about police detective Mark Fuhrman's allegedly racist behavior a decade ago at a Marine recruiting center located in a mini-mall where Coleman operated a sportswear shop.

Coleman earlier told the AP about a racially charged encounter in which Fuhrman behaved like a "white boy who didn't like black men hanging out with white women." Coleman said he sized up Fuhrman's attitudes toward blacks when the detective turned his back on Coleman as the two men were about to be introduced.

But on Friday he said he would leave it to others at the mini-mall to describe Fuhrman's behavior, although many of those he mentioned have run into credibility problems or expressed concerns similar to his about testifying.

Coleman said the "trial has just become a circus" and that he feared his serious testimony would be trivialized.

Simpson, 47, is charged with killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.