Court readmits evidence in NASA astronaut case

Mon Dec 8, 2008 3:40pm EST
 
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By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The trial of former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak for an attack on a romantic rival has been cleared to resume after an appeals court readmitted suppressed evidence from a police search of her car.

Nowak, who once flew on the space shuttle, was charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary after authorities say she armed herself with a knife, pepper spray and a steel mallet to assault Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman at Orlando International Airport in Florida on February 5, 2007.

The Florida 5th District Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a November 2007 decision by the trial court judge, Marc Lubet, that tossed out evidence seized by police from Nowak's car.

Lubet also threw out Nowak's statements to police, leaving prosecutors with little evidence to pursue the case on the grounds that her constitutional rights were violated by the way police interrogated her and searched her car.

The appeals court let stand the suppression of Nowak's statements but agreed with prosecutors that police had probable cause to search her car.

Lubet had adjourned proceedings while his ruling was appealed. It was not clear when the trial would resume.

"There could be other motions by the state and there could be other motions by the defense. The defense is not going to discuss their strategy," Marti MacKenzie, spokeswoman for defense attorney Donald Lykkebak, said on Monday.

Police have said Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando to confront Shipman, whom she considered a rival for the affections of then-astronaut Bill Oefelein. Investigators said Nowak told them she wore diapers on the road trip so she would not have to stop along the way.

NASA fired Nowak and Oefelein after Nowak's arrest.

(Editing by Tom Brown and John O'Callaghan)

 
<p>Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak is seen during a break in her pre-trial hearing in Orange County Court in Orlando, Florida August 24, 2007. REUTERS/Pool-Red Huber</p>