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For now, file is closed

By THOMAS C. TOBIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2000


LARGO -- The investigative file on the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson will remain secret for the time being, the result of a judge's ruling Wednesday.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III decided the Church of Scientology could rescind its demand for all the evidence gathered by prosecutors.

The church, which has been charged in McPherson's death, has a right to the prosecution's records, which lawyers call "discovery." But the records also become public when they are released to the defendant.

The church demanded to see the evidence Feb. 2 but changed its mind last week when medical examiner Joan Wood revised her 1996 autopsy report to say that McPherson's death was an "accident." Previously, the report classified the death as "undetermined."

Wood's decision, said church attorney Lee Fugate, "changes the legal basis of the charges," and prosecutors are reviewing the case in light of Wood's comments.

Church officials said Wednesday they did not want the records to be public while prosecutors rethink the case. The records total an estimated 10,000 pages.

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