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O.J. DEFENSE TAKES AIM AT DNA HANDLING

O.J. Simpson's attorneys are counting on faint dots to cast a dark shadow over the prosecution's case.

Unleashing its most powerful evidence yet, the defense elicited testimony from a DNA expert that faded little dots on DNA test strips may signal widespread contamination in the police crime lab.The dots, Denver microbiologist John Gerdes told jurors Wednesday, could show that Simpson's blood seeped into samples of his alleged victims' blood and that a prosecution scientist was wrong in saying victim Ronald Goldman's blood likely was in Simpson's Bronco.

The testimony goes to the heart of the defense case: that Simpson was victimized by sloppy police lab work by incompetent technicians and possibly framed by police officers hoping to nab a celebrity.

"It was a terrific day for the defense," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of Southern California. "The core of the prosecution case is the blood evidence. This gives the jury the possible grounds that the results are a product of contamination and mishandling."

Jurors, who appeared bored during some of the earlier scientific testimony, took abundant notes Wednesday. They scribbled in their notepads every time defense attorney Barry Scheck put up a chart or made a point on direct examination.

The task now falls on prosecutors to restore some credibility to their DNA case, which petered out when its statistician admitted fumbling some DNA figures.

Gerdes was to be cross-examined Thursday, and the prosecution has plenty of ammunition. Gerdes' testimony, for instance, only related to one kind of DNA test - PCR - and not to the more established form called RFLP, which also went against Simpson.

Still, the Los Angeles Police Department will have to take a long, hard look at its lab operation - if only because defense attorneys all over town will be. Legal experts said Scheck's attack could serve as a defense blueprint for years to come.

This testimony marked the first time the defense presented any evidence of contamination.