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TRIAL VEERS IN UNUSUAL DIRECTIONS

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It has been a long time since the O.J. Simpson trial veered in so many unusual directions.

On Tuesday, the defense stopped calling witnesses while awaiting legal rulings on news leaks, jurors were sent home early and a judge from another courtroom sat at Judge Lance Ito's bench, right above Ito's nameplate.Ito briefly turned his courtroom over to Judge John Reid, who heard arguments about a defense request for files on a Los Angeles Police Department internal affairs investigation into news leaks about DNA tests.

The defense contends the information might bolster its theory that police framed Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Ito said he wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict because his wife, a police captain, now works for internal affairs.

Wednesday's agenda called for more legal arguments on whether the police department should turn the internal affairs report over to Ito. Ito's ruling on whether the information is relevant may have implications on a separate pending issue: whether two journalists who received the leaks must testify about their sources.

Wednesday's only scheduled witness was forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who was to testify for the defense.

One highlight in court Tuesday was Gretchen Stockdale, a retired Los Angeles Raiders cheerleader and occasional Victoria's Secret model, who testified outside the jury's presence.

She said she gave the defense a tape of a phone message left by an apparently amorous Simpson hours before the June 12, 1994, murders. That tape, which the defense says it doesn't have to turn over, could be the only copy that exists.

Stockdale was called by the prosecution, which is seeking access to the message in which Simpson reportedly says, "Hey, Gretchen, sweetheart, it's Orenthal James, who is finally at a place in his life where he is, like, totally, totally, unattached with everybody. Ha, haaaaah!"

The judge ordered the prosecution to try to get a copy of it from the voice mail company.

Offering a glimpse of the celebrity fringe not seen in the trial since Simpson house guest Brian "Kato" Kaelin took the stand in March, Stockdale described how she met Simpson at a 1988 charity event and they developed a "very communicative friendship." She said that by 1993, "our communication increased."

Ito barred prosecutor Marcia Clark from asking Stockdale whether her relationship with Simpson was intimate.

Stockdale said her answering service sent her a tape of the message, which she turned over to a defense investigator last September.

Meanwhile, Simpson's lawyers sought appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate possible police perjury. The motion was aimed at Detective Mark Fuhrman and the LAPD, both targets of persistent defense attacks. Analysts said it might be nothing more than a defense ploy to unnerve opponents.

The defense contends a special prosecutor is needed because of the prosecution's "evident disinterest" in investigating perjury by its own witnesses and the judge's "failure to remedy the evil addressed herein."