Star scientific witness Henry Lee refused to be definitive while testifying for O.J. Simpson, hedging on everything from whether there was a second killer to whether the assailant left fingerprints in blood.
But Lee showed no such restraint in one area. He said the Los Angeles police crime lab treated him like dirt, insulting him, giving him a lousy microscope and rushing his examination of a pair of socks found in Simpson's bedroom."I (had) this feeling I'm not welcome," Lee said Wednesday, recounting a February visit. "I feel a little bit upset for this uncalled for, unprofessional (conduct)."
With the exception of that flash of anger by the man considered the nation's top forensic scientist, it was vintage Lee as he used metaphors featuring spaghetti, cockroaches and body armor to il-lus-trate his points for the jury.
He also slammed his hand into a puddle of red ink during a blood splatter demonstration, causing some jurors to jump slightly in their seats, and even made one slightly politically incorrect joke. The Chinese-born Lee, who speaks with a heavy accent, confused two white defense attorneys at one point, then quipped, "You all look alike." The courtroom erupted into laughter.
Thursday's court session was canceled by Superior Court Judge Lance Ito for personal reasons. Lee was to return Friday for a third day in the stand.
His testimony marked a dramatic departure from that of recent scientific witnesses, who appeared to have some jurors on the brink of sleep. The jury took lots of notes and laughed at many of Lee's cracks.
"In terms of trusting a witness and liking a witness and understanding what that witness has to say, Dr. Lee gets top grades for all of those," said law professor Myrna Raeder of Southwestern University.
As for the substance of his testimony, legal analysts said Lee made some important points for the defense, poking holes in the prosecution's single-killer theory and painting the police crime lab in a poor light.
"What Lee was really doing was to suggest this investigation was so botched at its inception that police failed to recognize evidence leading in a direction other than O.J.," said law professor Peter Arenella of the University of California, Los Angeles.
But the prosecution still has room to maneuver, thanks in part to Lee's own circumspection. While he would say that some blood impressions "could be" heel marks from a shoe other than the designer Italian shoe linked to Simpson, Lee didn't come right out and say it definitely was a shoe print in all but one area.
Also, the prosecution can argue that signs someone else was at the crime scene don't exonerate Simpson because he could have had help during or after the murders.
"When you cut to the chase, I'm not sure there's much there," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.