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TAPE CONTROVERSY HAS SUNK FUHRMAN'S HUNK STATUS

Mark Fuhrman has gone from hunk to candidate for a prison bunk.

Things are so bad for the just-retired police detective and key witness in the O.J. Simpson case that his own friend and former writing collaborator, Laura Hart McKinny, won't trust him with his own voice.McKinny, whose taped interviews with Fuhrman blew the big top right off the Simpson circus, decided Thursday that she still won't let him have copies of the tapes or transcripts for fear they will slip into the media's hands.

Her decision came despite Superior Court Judge Lance Ito's vouching for the integrity of Fuhrman's lawyer. So, for now, Fuhrman's best option is for his lawyer to sit in McKinny's office and listen to the tapes.

Testimony in the Simpson trial resumes today after a day off so Ito could attend to personal business. A hearing was set this morning on a prosecution request to bar some testimony by defense scientific witness Henry Lee. Lee was to take the stand after the hearing.

While Lee testifies, the Fuhrman feud will continue to play out beyond the awareness of the sequestered jury. The earliest panelists could learn about the tapes is next week, when Ito is expected to rule on the tapes' admissibility. Experts believe that, at a minimum, the judge will allow the majority-black jury to hear portions related to Fuhrman's repeated use of the word "nigger."

Prosecutors have copies of the tapes, courtesy of McKinny, not that it is any consolation. Aside from the racial epithets, their witness is heard advocating police brutality. If some of those tapes become evidence, prosecutors may have to distance themselves from a witness defense lawyers are casting as a racist and a perjurer.

"I can't believe that the jury is going to have anything but total disgust for Mark Fuhrman," said Loyola Law School Professor Stanley Goldman.

He said prosecutors would be well-advised to denounce Fuhr-man themselves and argue that the evidence he found is not essential to convict Simpson.

"At a minimum," says Southwestern University law professor Myrna Raeder, "the prosecution has to be aware that the glove may simply drop out as evidence" in the minds of jurors.

The Fuhrman tapes were recently uncovered by the defense in a bonanza for Simpson's case. McKinny recorded them over a 10-year period in which she was interviewing police officers as research for a screenplay.

The defense wants to use the tapes to discredit Fuhrman, who testified that he found a bloody glove on Simpson's property.

At a preliminary hearing in July 1994, Fuhrman mesmerized the nation with his tale of scaling the estate wall and discovering the glove on a leaf-strewn path behind the guest house. "My heart started pounding and I realized what I had probably found," he said.

Authorities contend the dark, right-handed leather glove is the mate of the left-handed glove found near the slashed bodies of Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Blood on the glove matches that of Simpson and the victims, DNA experts testified.

The tall, handsome detective - whose personnel file was filled with praise for his appearance but also troubling reports of instability - was flooded with romantic overtures after his initial testimony.

Flowers arrived at the courthouse for him, and a tabloid dubbed him "the hunkiest new star of the Los Angeles Police De-part-ment."

Those glory days were short-lived. Reports of racism and misogyny surfaced, and the defense quickly targeted Fuhrman as a central figure in its conspiracy theory. Simpson's lawyers contend he planted the glove - and possibly other evidence - out of hatred for interracial couples and a desire to star in the case.

Now, the defense says Fuhrman wasn't telling the truth about his past. In trial testimony, he denied ever using the word "nigger" in the last 10 years. The tapes were recorded during that time period.

Fuhrman's representatives say he had "a mental block" about the conversations.