Sunday, March 17, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Darden Blames Judge For Losing Control Of Simpson Trial

Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES - In his first extensive remarks since O.J. Simpson's murder acquittals in October, prosecutor Christopher Darden lashed out at Judge Lance Ito for giving "the defense the keys to the courthouse" and presiding over a trial that was a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

Darden said he still believes Simpson is guilty and thinks the speedy jury verdict was unfair to victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

But he said given the conditions present during the trial, getting a conviction was similar to "a snowball's chance in hell."

"(The trial) was allowed to proceed in a circus-like atmosphere. . . . There was no law," Darden said in a television interview with Barbara Walters that launches a publicity campaign for his book, "In Contempt." The interview aired Friday on ABC's "20/20."

Through a spokeswoman, Ito declined comment.

In the interview, Darden denounced Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr.'s public apology on the prosecutor's behalf during trial arguments about the use of the "n-word."

Cochran sought to introduce evidence that former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman had used the derogatory term in describing African Americans, but Darden was opposed, fearful that the jury would be blinded by the term.

He said Cochran's apology to African Americans for Darden's position made him feel like "hitting him with a right cross."

"What he was really saying to African Americans was that I was a sellout," Darden said. "I was a race traitor. I was an Uncle Tom. I wasn't to be trusted."

The fallout? "People wanted to kill me. People threatened me. People spit at me," Darden said. "Life changed. . . . There were days when I just didn't want to go back," he said.

The native of Richmond, Calif., said his own father had warned him about the improbability of a jury made up of nine African Americans, two whites and one Latino convicting Simpson of murder.

"I saw anger in that jury," Darden said. "I sensed it's payback time. And I sensed that we, that we had no chance."

Darden said the verdicts felt like "being struck in the stomach with a baseball bat."

Haunted by the outcome and his experiences during the trial, Darden says he has finished his work as a prosecutor, and instead will teach trial advocacy at Southwestern University in Los Angeles. Darden is on a leave of absence from the District Attorney's Office.

At one point in the interview, Darden defended his decision to have Simpson try on the bloody gloves, calling it a "brilliant move" even though "it didn't go as well as I thought it should have."

He attributed the apparent difficulty Simpson had in putting on the gloves to several factors, including Simpson's acting ability and shrinkage of the leather.

Even now, Darden said he is certain the gloves did fit and that Simpson is guilty. He said the gruesome photographs of the murder victims tell him the motive for the killing was personal.

"It was as if the man that did this wanted her to know it was him and wanted her to know why he was doing it," Darden said.

During the interview, Darden deftly ducked questions about his rumored romance with Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark.

"Was I a little bit in love with Marcia Clark? I don't know," Darden told Walters. "Love is a scary thing for me. But I care about Marcia Clark."

Darden disclosed that as a youth, he was once a shoplifter but stopped when police chased him and he was almost hit by a passing car. Fatherhood at 22 almost ended his law studies, but he persisted and earned his law degree. He says he is close to his 17-year-old daughter, Jenee.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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