Judge assails Smith lawyers' tactics

November 26, 1991|By Boston Globe

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. ZHC JHB — WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The judge in William Kennedy Smith's trial on rape charges said last night that Mr. Smith's lawyers violated state laws in obtaining the alleged victim's medical records and ordered them not to use the records in the trial that begins next week.

That could deal a blow to the defense, which hoped to make an issue of the Florida woman's medical history, including abortions and use of prescription drugs. Even more significant, since much of that testimony already has been barred or is expected to be barred, is Judge Mary Lupo's condemnation of defense tactics in obtaining the records.

"The court will not excuse defense counsel's abuse of the rules of discovery because he asserts that he is entitled to the records anyway," Judge Lupo said in a three-page ruling released late yesterday. "The ends do not justify the means."

Yesterday's order was one of the strongest-worded yet in the 8-month-old case, in which the 30-year-old woman is accusing Mr. Smith of raping her at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach on Easter weekend. Mr. Smith denies any wrongdoing.

Defense attorneys obtained the woman's medical records, Judge Lupo said, by serving with subpoenas her dentist, two doctors and four hospitals where she received treatment. The problem, the judge added, was that Mr. Smith's lawyers never notified the woman or her lawyer that they were seeking her records, as required by law.

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