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2 FOUGHT FOR THEIR LIVES, EXPERT INSISTS

O.J. Simpson's forensics expert stepped down from the witness stand Friday after sticking to his theory that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman fought with their killer before their slashing deaths.

During intense cross-examination, prosecutor Brian Kelberg challenged virtually all of Dr. Michael Baden's conclusions - most aggressively his claim that Nicole Simpson and Goldman struggled with their killer, and that Nicole Simpson was conscious when her throat was cut.The interplay between Kelberg and Baden - a former New York City chief medical examiner who has earned more than $100,000 for his expert testimony - was spirited. At one point, Kelberg's strident tone drew a reprimand from the judge.

"The jury is only six feet away. They can hear you, Mr. Kelberg," Judge Lance Ito interjected.

Jurors took little or no notes during the cross-examination and, as the testimony wore on, one juror slouched down in her chair, another folded her arms.

"I think that rationally, Kelberg definitely scored considerable points," said University of California, Los Angeles law professor Peter Arenella. "But it doesn't appear, emotionally, that it registered with the jury."

Baden had testified Thursday that the grisly June 12, 1994, slayings took longer than the prosecution contends - a theory that supports defense claims that Simpson's body should have been bruised if he was the killer.

But throughout Friday's cross-examination, Kelberg portrayed Baden as a hired gun whose medical conclusions are unreasonable.

He questioned, for example, Baden's conclusion that superficial cuts across Goldman's neck occurred after several major injuries had been inflicted and Goldman lay dying.

Kelberg contended that it is not logical for an attacker to inflict serious injuries, then walk up to a victim and instill superficial cuts.

"Murders and struggles are not logical," Baden shot back. "If they were logical there would be fewer of them."

Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, the Los Angeles County coroner, testified in June that the horizontal lines were consistent with the attacker holding Goldman from behind, and placing a knife across Goldman's neck in a taunting manner before inflicting serious injury.

The county coroner also had testified that the attacker restricted Nicole Simpson's movements while placing similar cuts, four in all, on the side of her neck.