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The curious matter of the missing fingernail evidence hovering over the Phil Spector trial has been partially settled today in something of a bombshell ruling from presiding Judge Paul Fidler. Prosecutors had accused the defense of having withheld a fragment of what was believed to be Lana Clarkson's fingernail, recalled by several eyewitnesses as having been collected at the crime scene by forensic scientist Henry Lee. From the LAT Spector Trial Blog:

Judge Larry Paul Fidler made a ruling this morning likely to be heard around the world — that famous criminalist Henry Lee withheld evidence from prosecutors. At issue was a small, white object three people said they saw at the crime scene. A former Spector defense lawyer, Sara Caplan, and a defense investigator both said they saw Lee pick up the object in the foyer of Spector's Alhambra mansion. Prosecutors claim it was a piece of Lana Clarkson's fingernail, which would show, as Head Deputy Dist. Atty Patrick Dixon said in court, that Clarkson's hand was in front of her face when the shot was fired, so "her hands and her fingers were not on the trigger." [...]

Lee, a key defense witness, is expected to testify about scientific evidence he says demonstrates that Spector was too far away to fire the lethal shot at Clarkson.

The ruling delivers yet another severe blow to the defense's case, just days after the jury was shown a videotaped interview with the limo driver taken just hours after the shooting that was entirely consistent with his testimony that Spector had told him, "I think I killed somebody." What Spector needs now is nothing short of a miracle, though superstar defense attorney Bruce Cutler might want to reconsider his plan to have one of his aides sneak a Ziplock baggie into the exhibit pile during lunch break, then feign shock as he "discovers" it and bombastically announces: "Hey, everyone! It's the missing evidence! Why, it's nothing but a piece of Frito! This is as much a 'fingernail' as my client is 'guilty.' It's as simple as that."