BOTH SIDES IN THE O. J. Simpson civil trial continued slogging away last week to select a jury. But the real action was outside the courtroom, with repercussions for both sides if the prospective jurors were paying attention. Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced former detective, did potential damage to the plaintiffs; Robert Kardashian, Simpson's longtime friend, may have hurt the defense.
Fuhrman, carrying himself in his usual ramrod posture, copped a plea to one felony count of perjury--regarding his now infamous denial of ever using the N word. The plea was timely for Simpson's defense: it could remind potential jurors of O.J.'s claim (unsubstantiated) that racist cops framed him. That memory is especially good for Simpson because the new crop of jurors may never get to hear Fuhrman testify. Although he was subpoenaed last week to appear on Dec. 4, he would likely take the Fifth Amendment because of a pending federal investigation.
Kardashian, the man who read Simpson's ""suicide'' note the day of the Bronco chase, will re-enter the media circus ring this week. In an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, to be aired Friday on ""20/20,'' Kardashian now appears to turn on Simpson, a twist that would be surpassed only if A. C. Cowlings started bad-mouthing O.J. Asked by Walters about Simpson's innocence, Kardashian says, according to an ABC-provided transcript, ""I have doubts.'' Why? ""The blood evidence is the biggest thorn in my side; that causes me the greatest problems. So I--I struggle with the blood evidence.'' Kardashian, who with his former wife often vacationed with O. J. and Nicole Simpson, says he would nevertheless still vote ""not guilty'' at the civil trial.
Why Kardashian's turnabout? It isn't clear, but the interview is timed to promote the latest O.J. book, ""An American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense,'' written by Lawrence Schiller and James Willwerth, a Time magazine correspondent. Kardashian is reportedly the book's major source. Schiller, who had earlier collaborated with Simpson on his book ""I Want to Tell You,'' declined to say whether Kardashian was paid for the book interviews.
Also on ""20/20,'' Schiller will disclose that Simpson's defense team played a trick on the predominantly African-American jury. Before the jury visited Simpson's Rockingham estate, according to Schiller, the Dream Team lawyers had Simpson aides remove pictures of white women around the house--including a nude photo of Simpson girlfriend Paula Barbieri next to his bed--and put up pictures of black women. One, of a little girl, was apparently borrowed from Johnnie Cochran's office. Kardashian confirmed the makeover, admitting to Walters it was intended to manipulate the jury. Nice touch. Now, does anybody have a framed Mother Teresa for the next visit?