Spector judge threatens attorney with contempt action

first_imgThe judge in Phil Spector’s murder trial told a former attorney for the record producer Thursday that she will be held in contempt if she refuses to testify about seeing a defense forensic expert handling possible evidence from the death scene that was never given to the prosecution. In a hearing without the jury present, Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said he wanted to avoid the extreme action of holding attorney Sara Caplan in contempt but saw no recourse in the law. The threat triggered immediate private talks between the defense and prosecution, and then a meeting in the judge’s chambers. When Fidler emerged, he said the parties were trying to reach a stipulation – usually an agreement in which a statement is read to the jury – but it was not certain that would happen. “If it is arrived at it will prevent Ms. Caplan from being held in contempt,” the judge said before deferring the issue until Monday. The prosecution believes the object could be a missing fingernail from actress Lana Clarkson, who was shot at Spector’s suburban mansion on Feb. 3, 2003. The defense claims Clarkson shot herself. Caplan, a member of Spector’s original defense team, testified in the earlier hearing without the jury present that she saw Lee pick up a small white object when the team inspected the death scene after sheriff’s investigators were through with it. The defense argued that Caplan should not be ordered to testify on grounds of attorney-client privilege and of broader ethical responsibility to a client.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The prosecution called a firearms expert in an effort to tie Spector to the unregistered death weapon. The witness said, after four years of testing the weapon, he couldn’t say who fired it. The deferral postponed Fidler’s plan to place Caplan under oath without the jury present to hear her formal refusal before ruling her in contempt and ordering her jailed to coerce her testimony. Fidler, however, had already said he would immediately stay the order so that it could proceed directly to an appellate court. Fidler said it will never be known what the item was that Caplan described in an earlier hearing, but that the jury was entitled to know that something was allegedly placed in a vial by famed forensic expert Henry Lee and was never provided to the prosecution. “I do not have the right to usurp the jury’s findings on credibility,” the judge said, noting that he cannot simply tell the jurors that Lee’s credibility is in question. Lee has denied to the court that he ever had such an item but the judge has made a formal finding that Lee did remove something from the scene. If Lee testifies for the defense, the prosecution would want to call Caplan to impeach his credibility. last_img