Parrot can't testify in murder trial

November 12, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- A defense lawyer in a Northern California murder case says he believes Max the parrot may be more than just an ordinary bird -- that Max may, indeed, hold the answer to who smothered Jane Gill to death in her bedroom two years ago.

Max, the lawyer says, may be a witness. But the jurors in the trial will not hear from Max. An attempt to get the African gray parrot's testimony -- rather, testimony about the bird's testimony -- into evidence last week was blocked by the judge.

Max was found dehydrated and hungry in his cage when the body of Ms. Gill, 36, was discovered two days after her death in November 1991.

After Max was coaxed back to health at a pet shop, the shop's owner said the bird began to cry out, "Richard, no, no, no!"

The man charged in the case is Ms. Gill's business partner, Gary Joseph Rasp.

Mr. Rasp's lawyer, Charles Ogulnik, brought up the parrot in court when he was questioning the defense's private investigator, Gary Dixon.

"Why did I ask you to follow up on the bird?" Mr. Ogulnik asked.

Mr. Dixon began, "The bird was making some spontaneous statements to its keeper --."

An emphatic objection by the Sonoma County deputy district attorney was sustained by the judge.

No one will disclose where Max is now. Mr. Dixon deadpanned that the parrot is in a witness protection program, disguised as a macaw.

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