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After a year of mounting tensions, the O.J. Simpson trial at last reached emotional meltdown.

It showed Wednesday in the pained expression of murder victim Ronald Goldman's father, Fred Goldman, who spoke of Simpson's lawyers in a voice mixed with hurt and anger: "Do they take us all for morons?"It showed in the tearful face of Ronald Goldman's sister Kim Goldman, who declared: "I'm fed up, and my emotions are up to here. Over and above the loss of my brother, I have all this other crap to deal with."

It showed as defense attorney Robert Shapiro alleged in clear, slow, unemotional tones that Christopher Darden is a prosecutor so reprehensible he should be reported to the State Bar.

It showed in the incredulous look on the face of Darden, who responded that the defense attorneys are so vile that he is sickened to even have to share a lectern with them.

And it showed in the haggard faces of jurors, sequestered since Jan. 11, locked in a room for hours on end with only their paperbacks and knitting while attorneys argued over issues the jury knows nothing about.

When testimony resumed Wednesday afternoon with the head of the police crime lab, Michele Kestler, being grilled on paperwork procedures, it was so boring and repetitious that none of the jurors took notes. Some appeared on the brink of dozing off.

The trial, intended to determine whether Simpson murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman on June 12, 1994, seems to have drifted into a galaxy far, far away. It was only fitting that among the courtroom spectators was Mark Hamill - Luke Skywalker in the "Star Wars" movies and a devoted Simpson trial watcher.

The only thing that can bring this case back in its final days, legal analysts said, is the firm hand of the judge, who himself has struggled to rein in his emotions. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito choked back tears Tuesday when he spoke of the verbal lashing his police captain wife apparently received from detective Mark Fuhrman on tape recordings, but he appeared in control as court resumed Wed-nes-day.

"That's what judges are paid to do: Stand above the fray, put their emotions aside," said Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman. "And that's what Ito should have done . . . and that's what he's going to have to do - dispassionately examine the record, match it to the law and decide whether these tapes are admissible, regardless of what the speaker said about his wife."

Ito has already tried to take steps in that direction. Earlier this week, he dressed down attorneys in his chambers for focusing so much attention on "unadulterated crap." On Wednesday, he warned attorneys again to pay attention to the panel and keep things moving.

"I am very concerned about the durability of this jury," Ito said. "We need to proceed to a judgment by this jury."

Goldman's father, sister and stepmother called a news conference Wednesday afternoon to denounce the defense and declare Simpson a killer. They were particularly angry that Simpson's murder trial was turning into the "Fuhrman trial."

"Ron and Nicole were butchered by their client," said Fred Gold-man, his eyes moist and his voice wavering. "Do any of you believe otherwise? You have seen the evidence in this trial. It is overwhelming. This is not now the Fuhrman trial. This is a trial about the man who murdered my son."


Additional Information

Black officers sue

A black police officers' organization has filed a federal discrimination suit against the Los Angeles police union, calling it a bastion of white supremacy. "They are the gatekeepers of oppression and racism in the LAPD," said Leonard Ross, president of the 500-member Oscar Joel Bryant Association. The lawsuit says the 7,700-member Police Protective League routinely denies representation to black officers while providing it for white officers. "The accusations are baseless and we are looking forward to an aggressive defense," said the union's general counsel, Hank Hernandez.