Eric Laughlin: O.J. 'Dream Team' lawyer and DNA expert Bob Blasier to represent Phillip Arthur Thompson in Betty Cloer murder trial.
The Mountain Democrat © 2009

The attorney and DNA expert who represented O.J. Simpson in his two high profile trials has joined the defense team of El Dorado County cold case murder defendant Phillip Arthur Thompson.

Robert Blasier, once a member of the so-called 'O.J. Dream Team,' was in court Thursday alongside Thompson's primary attorney Dain Weiner to screen potential jurors who might sit on the lengthy trial.

'Do any of you have issues with my having worked on the O.J. case?' Blasier asked the summoned group. 'Because if you do just tell me and I won't have a problem with it. My gardener actually fired me because I was on the case.'

Blasier then got serious and asked the panel what their feelings were with regard to DNA evidence.

'Do any of you believe that a person who gives DNA evidence is automatically guilty of a crime?' he asked.

One on the panel, a prison guard, said he might have an issue looking past matching DNA evidence.

'I truly believe that DNA doesn't lie,' the man said, 'so I might have a hard time with that.'

Others on the panel also said they were confident with the accuracy of DNA evidence, but said they would give it lesser weight if it wasn't collected properly.

And that is precisely one of the issues the defense will argue in its case: In Thompson's 2004 preliminary hearing, a now-retired sheriff's detective testified that he put the Thompson DNA sample in an evidence locker which also contained the victim's underwear that the original DNA sample had been taken from.
Thompson, 67, was transferred to the El Dorado County Jail from Solano State Prison in 2003, after his sample was allegedly connected to victim Betty Marie Cloer's undergarments. Cloer, a Sacramento hairdresser, was found shot three times and bludgeoned to death with a large rock in a remote area of Cameron Park off Cambridge Drive. The murder took place in the summer of 1971.

The defense team also questioned the potential jurors about other issues, such as their feelings about seeing gruesome photographs and how much Thompson's prior criminal record might influence their ability to be fair.

Thompson was found not guilty by a jury of an unrelated 1970 rape and was convicted of an assault at about that time. He had been serving prison time for a burglary conviction at the time of his arrest in connection to the Cloer case.

The prison guard in the group said he didn't have a problem with looking past the other cases, but said he would have a hard time dealing with the main case, since it was so old.

Defense attorney Weiner then asked the man:

'If you were in Mr. Thompson's position, would you feel comfortable having someone like you on the jury?'

The man answered, 'not in my state of mind, no.'

The jury selection process, known in legal terms as 'voir dire,' is used by attorneys from both sides to weed out those who reveal potential bias in their ability to be impartial.

Prosecutor Trish Kelliher had yet to begin her questions by press time. The process is expected to wrap up Tuesday morning, paving the way for opening statements to begin by the afternoon. The trial is expected to last at least six weeks.

Blasier, a resident of El Dorado Hills, has worked on a long list of other high profile cases, including that of the Unabomber and recording industry giant and alleged killer Phil Spector. Blasier said he regularly receives requests for his services and in this case he agreed to come aboard when approached by Weiner.

As he left the Courthouse, the 62-year-old Blasier spoke briefly of his role in the O.J. case. When the El Dorado County resident was asked about his lodging during the Los Angeles trial, he said he lived in a hotel during the criminal trial and in Simpson's home during the civil trial.