The jargon is beyond arcane, the jurors stare blankly, the judge is increasingly cranky - and there's still more DNA testimony to come in the O.J. Simpson trial.
Judging by reactions to Monday's convoluted, acronym-laden questions and answers, it's possible the only people who completely understand what's going on with DNA evidence are the attorneys and the expert witnesses."It's like watching a foreign language film with no subtitles," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. "I give the jurors a lot of credit if they understood what was being said today, because I don't think anyone else did.
"At times today," Levenson said, "It seemed like Barry Scheck and Gary Sims were having their own private conversation."
Indeed, the talk from defense attorney Scheck, prosecution scientist Sims and prosecutor Rockne Harmon was full of acronyms and scientific jargon.
Referring to an enzyme used in testing, Harmon said, "So HAE-III isn't the only sound scientific process?"
Sims: "That's correct."
Another exchange went this way:
Scheck: "Now, in terms of PCR carryover contamination, if there were a problem of PCR carryover contamination at a laboratory such that through repetitive typing there was some 1.3 amplicons in the laboratory, are you with
Scheck: "- that could account in terms of typing for the 1.3 lighting up persistently in various strips, even if faintly?"
And what effect does this have on jurors, who took few notes as the day wore on and have already asked the judge for longer court hours to speed the plodding trial?
"If they don't understand it, they don't have any choice but to ignore it," Levenson said.
That may be what the defense wants. Sims and another DNA expert have already testified, again in mind-boggling detail, that Simpson's unique genetic code was found in blood drops near the bodies of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Sims was dismissed from the stand Monday to attend to a family matter. He was to resume testifying Thursday. Fellow state Department of Justice scientist Renee Montgomery was to take the stand Tuesday.
During a lengthy cross-examination Monday that contained several complex hypothetical questions, Scheck tried to advance the defense's conspiracy theory by suggesting a test result could be interpreted to show that a blood drop collected near the bodies contained Simpson's DNA only after it was touched with some of Simpson's blood.
"Let's not worry for a minute how it got there," Scheck said.
Sims shot back: "I would worry."
After Scheck tried several more ways to pose the question, Judge Lance Ito finally asked Sims: "Do you understand the factors involved in the question?"
"I think I understand the first about half of it, and then I kind of lost it on the second half," Sims replied.
Ito was testy throughout most of the day. At one point he threatened to remove the audience after some snickered at Scheck's failed attempts to lodge an objection.
"This is not an audience participation," Ito admonished. "Next time I hear an audience reaction, I'm clearing the audience."