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Puffy Defense Wants Mistrial

Combs' defense moves for a mistrial after witness changes testimony

January 31, 2001 12:00 AM ET

The Sean "Puffy" Combs trial continued Wednesday in a Manhattan Superior Court, a day after the court considered whether to allow the testimony of an unidentified female witness. Murray Richman, the attorney for Jamal "Shyne" Barrow -- who is charged with attempted murder (Combs and his bodyguard Anthony Jones face weapons possession charges) -- suggests that the woman's testimony may prove that Combs shot the bullets in question at Club New York in December, 1999, not Barrow. Judge Charles Solomon decided to have the witness testify outside of the presence of the jury so that he could decide what parts of her testimony will be included later this week.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos brought Leonard Curtis Howard to the stand late Monday afternoon. Howard worked as one of Combs' bodyguards on the night of the shooting. Howard testified that Combs was not searched at the club but that he had seen Combs searched before, which contradicted his grand jury testimony a year ago that he had never seen Combs searched. Bogdanos presented Howard with a transcript of that testimony, at which point Howard repeatedly changed his answers. Bogdanos told Solomon that he believed Howard was perjuring himself, saying, "A liar better have a good memory," evoking comments made by the defense regarding Combs' driver Wardel Fenderson in their opening arguments. Combs attorney Benjamin Brafman objected vehemently and repeatedly and moved unsuccessfully for a mistrial early Wednesday.

Brafman's cross-examination of Howard had began on Monday and continued Wednesday. The attorney blamed Bogdanos for not giving the witness a chance to look over his grand jury testimony, causing memory lapses, and also blamed an unspecified illness that Howard has supposedly suffered from for the last year (he left his job as a corrections officer on permanent disability). Under cross-examination, Howard effectively became a witness for the defense, telling the court, "If [Combs] is going to carry an illegal firearm, there is no reason for me to be there."

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