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The Kristine Fitzhugh Case

Wednesday, July 18, 2001 5:30 p.m.

Judge admonishes defense attorney
Thomas Nolan told not to be combative with witnesses

by Bill D'Agostino

"This is not television," Superior Court Judge Franklin Elia warned Kenneth Fitzhugh's defense attorney late today after the jury had left the courtroom.

During much of the trial, which began July 2, Elia has been trying to rein in both defense attorney Thomas Nolan, and Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher, who habitually interrupt each other.

Last week, Elia warned that if either attorney interrupted the other again, he would impose a $1,000 fine.

At the close of the court session today, Elia hit a new level of annoyance, bordering on anger, after Nolan stated that it didn't matter which way the court ruled on an objection he made to a question asked by Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher.

After a strongly worded admonition by Elia, Nolan apologized, and added that Elia had misinterpreted his intentions.

The judge went on to criticize Nolan for being openly combative toward one of his witnesses, Palo Alto Police Officer Tom Pohl. Nolan had called Pohl to the stand to question the quality of the police investigation. At one point, Nolan accused Pohl of changing his description of events to fit the prosecution's theories.

Nolan, a well respected Palo Alto attorney whose style of witness examination verges on the theatrical, has been personally attracting an audience to the courtroom. One court spectator said that he comes to watch the trial specifically to view Nolan in action.

Wednesday was Nolan's first day presenting Fitzhugh's defense.

Unfortunately, Nolan ran out of witnesses half an hour early -- another annoyance for the judge.

Nolan's witnesses for the day also included Kristine Fitzhugh's psychiatrist, other Palo Alto police officers, workers to help collaborate Fitzhugh's alibi, and a physician who examined Fitzhugh after Kristine was killed and saw no serious wounds on him.

Elia said that the trial is now expected to be submitted to the jury by July 27.

(Patricia Gosalvez also contributed to this report.)




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