For His Defense, Simpson Assembles Legal `Dream Team'
WHEN O.J. Simpson appears in Los Angeles Superior Court today to be formally charged with two counts of murder, he will be accompanied by Robert Shapiro, the L.A. lawyer in charge of Mr. Simpson's defense. Mr. Shapiro, in turn, will have behind him - though most of them won't be present in the courtroom - a small army of lawyers, forensic scientists, expert witnesses, investigators, and other support workers mobilized on behalf of the accused celebrity.
Some of the lawyers on what has been dubbed this defense dream team are celebrities in their own rights. Other members, while they are not public figures, are recognized as stars within the criminal-law community.
``Simpson's defense team has what can only be called enormous legal firepower,'' says John Henry Hingson III, a defense lawyer in Oregon City, Ore., and president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
These legal Patriot missiles don't come cheap, of course. The cost of Simpson's defense may reach $2 million, and it could be substantially more depending on the length of the expected trial and whether there are appeals.
On Wednesday, the attorneys offered a $500,000 reward for information leading to the ``real killer or killers.''
Simpson, the former football star turned actor and sports broadcaster, is accused of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman on June 12. Simpson has denied the charges and is expected to plead not guilty at today's arraignment.
Here is a scorecard of the major players on Simpson's team.
* Shapiro. He has defended other entertainment notables, including Marlon Brando's son, Christian, in a homicide case.
* Gerald Uelmen, a former federal prosecutor and former dean at Santa Clara (Calif.) Law School who worked with Shapiro on the Christian Brando case. An authority on search-and-seizure, Mr. Uelmen undoubtedly has focused on the propriety of police conduct in obtaining some evidence at Simpson's home.
* F. Lee Bailey. The renowned Boston defense lawyer and author brings vast experience to the team, but he is not expected to have courtroom duties. He is famous for defending Patty Hearst.
* Alan Dershowitz. The Harvard Law School professor is well known for defending Klaus von Bulow, who was accused of trying to murder his socialite wife (dramatized in the movie ``Reversal of Fortune''), Mike Tyson, Leona Helmsley, and other public figures. An experienced appeals lawyer, Professor Dershowitz will pay close attention to identifying and building a strong record on issues that could be grounds for an appeal in the event Simpson is convicted.
Some observers have wondered if Shapiro will have trouble coordinating this constellation of legal stars who are ``accustomed to calling the shots in trials,'' in the words of Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor who teaches at Loyal Law School in Los Angeles. ``Shapiro's biggest challenge will be using these lawyers to gain the maximum benefit of each one's talents,'' she says.
One significant hole remains: A second trial lawyer to share courtroom duties with Shapiro. ``The key to the smooth functioning of the team will be whom Shapiro picks for that job,'' says Peter Arenella, a criminal-law professor at University of California, Los Angeles.
``Shapiro doesn't want to give up authority for determining how the case will be tried, but the best trial attorneys like to run the show,'' Mr. Arenella says.
One trial lawyer reportedly under consideration at the time of writing is L.A. attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., who has defended singer Michael Jackson against child-abuse allegations.
Other key members of the defense team include:
* Dr. Michael Baden, a pathologist who is examining autopsy evidence in the case.
* Dr. Henry Lee, a forensic expert known for his skill in crime-scene investigation.
* Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, New York City lawyers recognized as leading experts on DNA testing, who are expected to challenge the reliability of any DNA evidence offered to implicate Simpson.