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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

O.J. Judge Mulls Recusal Following Insult to Wife

LOS ANGELES -- After seven months of testimony, the judge in the O.J. Simpson murder trial now faces his most controversial decision yet -- whether to withdraw from the case and possibly derail it altogether.


In a bizarre turn of events that plunged the so-called "trial of the century" into turmoil Tuesday, prosecutor Marcia Clark somberly asked Judge Lance Ito to remove himself from the case and turn it over to another jurist.


At issue, Clark contended, was whether Ito could rule impartially on matters related to Detective Mark Fuhrman, a controversial prosecution witness, after learning he had made disparaging remarks about the judge's police-captain wife.


Clark said Ito's complete withdrawal was "the only road to take" because of the potential conflict of interest, but defense attorneys accused prosecutors of trying to force a mistrial and said they would fight to keep Ito on the case.


Ito ordered both sides to submit written arguments and said he would make a decision Wednesday. If he steps aside, it would force a long delay and could put the entire trial at risk, legal analysts say.


The focus of the day's emotional session was a series of audiotapes in which Fuhrman allegedly derided blacks as "niggers," spoke of police planting evidence and made derogatory references about Ito's wife, Captain Margaret York, the highest-ranking woman in the Los Angeles Police Department.


Fuhrman, who made the comments in taped interviews conducted over the past 10 years with a North Carolina-based screenwriter, is the detective who found a bloody glove at Simpson's estate the morning after the June 12, 1994, murders of the former American football star's wife and her friend.


Simpson's attorneys have accused Fuhrman of being a racist who framed the black celebrity, but in earlier trial testimony, he denied planting the glove and said he had not used the racial slur "nigger" anytime in the past decade.


The defense team contends that Fuhrman committed perjury and they want to play the tapes for the mostly black jury.


With jurors absent from the courtroom, Ito ruled that another jurist, Judge John Reid, would make the critical decision on the admissibility of the tapes and whether the judge's wife might be called by the prosecution to rebut Fuhrman's taped remarks.


"I love my wife dearly and I am wounded by criticism of her," Ito said, his voice choked with emotion, as millions of TV viewers looked on. He said he wanted to avoid even the appearance of unfairness.


While some analysts said Ito faces a tough decision, Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman said it was "silly" for him to even consider bowing out. He predicted that Ito would "take a deep breath" overnight and return with a decision to stay on.


Defense attorneys, almost euphoric when they got their hands on the Fuhrman tapes last week after a North Carolina court battle, complained angrily at the prosecution's efforts to remove Ito during the critical final phase of the defense case.