LOS ANGELES – The judge in Phil Spector's murder trial ruled Wednesday that renowned forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee removed something from the scene where actress Lana Clarkson was shot and hid it from the prosecution.
The judge said, however, that he would not hold Lee in contempt because of conflicting accounts of what happened.
"If Dr. Lee has this object, he's to produce it forthwith," the judge said.
He said that of all the witnesses who had testified on the issue, the only one he found completely credible was attorney Sara Caplan, who said she saw Lee pick up a white object with a rough edge and place it in a vial during the defense search of the foyer of Spector's mansion.
The prosecution contends the item was a piece of a fingernail with the trace of a passing bullet that would show Clarkson was resisting having a gun placed in her mouth. Lee has denied taking any such thing from the crime scene.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler rejected a prosecution bid to instruct jurors that Lee is not a credible witness, saying he would allow the jurors to make that decision themselves.
"Dr. Lee has a lot to lose here," the judge said in a hearing without the jury present.
Lee has been a major witness in such trials as those of O.J. Simpson and William Kennedy Smith. He also had his own show on Court TV.
Clarkson, a hostess at the House of Blues, had accompanied Spector to his suburban Alhambra mansion after getting off work early on the morning of Feb. 3, 2003. She died there of a gunshot fired through her mouth.
A key witnesses in the trial, Spector's chauffeur Adriano De Souza, has testified that the music producer emerged from the house that morning and said: "I think I killed somebody." The defense has sought to show that De Souza, whose native language is Portuguese, could not understand English well enough to testify accurately.
Spector rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s, transforming rock music with what became known as the "Wall of Sound" recording technique.