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Simpson's Attorneys Ask Detectives for Hair Samples

October 08, 1994|JIM NEWTON and RALPH FRAMMOLINO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Seeking to bolster their argument that police officers may have mishandled or planted evidence in the O.J. Simpson murder case, Simpson's attorneys have asked four detectives to supply hair samples so they can compare them to a hair from a bloody glove found at the murder scene.

According to sources close to the case, the request infuriated the officers, particularly when they learned that prosecutors had not objected to it. The defense has previously sought and been granted photographs of the shoes that officers wore on the night of the murders in order to compare them to bloody shoe prints leading away from the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Both requests grow out of the Simpson team's efforts to establish that police officers investigating the murders botched the probe, compromising key scientific evidence. The defense attorneys have also suggested that one detective, Mark Fuhrman, may have planted a glove at Simpson's home, a suggestion that Fuhrman's attorney has vehemently denied and that police officials say would have been virtually impossible.

Angered by the latest attack on their investigation and by their belief that prosecutors failed to stand up for them, detectives took their complaint to the Los Angeles Police Protective League. One of them, Detective Ronald Phillips, went even further, consulting with attorney Darryl Mounger, a former police officer.

The discussions with Mounger and league representatives were held in private, but some details were relayed to Protective League delegates at a meeting this week. At that meeting, league Director Cliff Ruff briefed delegates on the defense request and the ensuing controversy, according to sources who attended the meeting.

Ruff was unavailable for comment Friday.

According to law enforcement sources, the detectives met Sept. 29 and grudgingly decided to comply with the defense request--if only to prevent the Simpson team from later making an issue out of their refusal.

As a result, sources said, the four detectives--Phillips, Fuhrman, Philip L. Vannatter and Tom Lange--will supply hair samples so defense investigators can compare them with a single Caucasian hair found on a glove discovered lying near the feet of the two bodies.

Authorities believe that the murderer wore that glove--as well as a matching one found outside Simpson's Brentwood home two miles away. Analysis done so far on the hair suggests that it did not come from Simpson or from either victim, the sources added.

Although he declined to comment on evidence in the case, Simpson attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. confirmed Friday that defense lawyers are seeking hair samples from the four white detectives and added that they also hope to secure a sample from an African American officer who records show was among the police at the murder scene June 13.

Sources close to the case have said that a hair found on Goldman's body has been microscopically analyzed, and that investigators concluded that it came from a black person.

That finding could help link Simpson to the murder scene, but if the hair matched the police officer's, that could defuse its value as evidence.

"It is a reasonable request," Cochran said of asking the policemen for hair samples. "That's why the district attorney's office went along with it."

In other developments:

* The Santa Monica city attorney's office is considering whether to file misdemeanor theft charges against a clerk who removed Nicole Simpson's medical files from Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center and provided them to a curious relative of the clerk, officials said.

The files have been returned to the hospital after Santa Monica police detectives hunted them down at the Playa del Rey home of the relative, who "denied making copies of the files and indicated that his sole reason for wanting the files was curiosity's sake," a police spokesman said Friday.

Alicia Cortrite, chief deputy of the criminal division, also said her office will probably make a decision by the middle of next week about what charges, if any, will be brought against the clerk and her relative. Police declined to release the names because neither was arrested.

"What we're looking at is the possibility of theft-related charges--petty theft, embezzlement or receiving stolen property," Cortrite said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office subpoenaed the medical records for use in its double murder case against the football great but discovered that they were missing and asked Santa Monica police to investigate Sept. 27, the police spokesman said.

"The empty file folder which contained Nicole Brown Simpson's medical records was found in a clerk's file cabinet by a hospital supervisor," the spokesman said. "The clerk was subsequently interviewed by detectives and admitted to taking the files."

The spokesman said the clerk brought officers to where her relative worked, and the family member immediately led police to his house, where the files were recovered.

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