Tuesday, January 11, 2005
On Jan. 10, U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre denied Richard Scrushy's motion to suppress tape recordings made by former CFO William Owens in March 2003 while he was wearing a hidden tape recorder. The tapes were made over a two-day period right before the government executed a search warrant at HealthSouth that ultimately lead to Scrushy's resignation from the company and a series of guilty pleas by financial and other executives at the company. At issue in the motion to suppress were claims by Scrushy that the government had tampered with the evidence by turning the tape recorder on and off, and that there might be problems in the chain of custody for the tapes. Although Judge Bowdre denied the motion, stating she saw no evidence of tampering, a story in the Birmingham News (Jan. 11) indicates that defense counsel will challenge the tapes if the government seeks to admit them at trial:
Upcoming challenges to the recordings are likely to concentrate on the handling of them after they were made, said [Raymond] Johnson, the Birmingham lawyer [and former member of Scrushy's defense team]. Such efforts might call into question the chain of custody that law enforcement officers must respect to preserve the integrity of evidence, he said.
"The government will have to show the evidence maintained its integrity throughout, that, for example, it wasn't taken from an evidence room by an unauthorized person," Johnson said. "If there is a gap in the chain, there can be problems for the government."
The court did grant Scrushy's motion to postpone the start of the trial by one week, to Jan. 25, due to the large volume of evidence recently turned over to the defense. (ph)