Dirty Fingernail Sought in Spector Case

02/05/2004 AT 10:26 AM EST

The strange circumstances surrounding the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson at the Los Angeles castle of Phil Spector took another bizarre turn this week, when it was revealed the legendary music producer's defense team has refused to turn over a torn piece of the victim's fingernail that's reputedly blackened with gunpowder residue.

According to the Associated Press, Deputy District Attorney Douglas Sortino demanded that Spector's attorney Robert Shapiro surrender the evidence, which he said was discovered by the defense after sheriff's deputies had already combed the crime scene.

Prosecutors said earlier that the defense had a mystery "item of physical evidence," but identified it in the motion filed Monday as the fingernail of Clarkson, 40, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in the foyer of Spector's mansion.

Spector, 62, is charged with murder in the case but remains free on $1 million bail. In a widely publicized interview with Esquire magazine last year, the notoriously reticent producer said he is innocent and suggested the actress shot herself.

In the motion, prosecutors demanded that Shapiro -- who defended O.J. Simpson and has since been replaced by Spector with Leslie Abramson, who defended the Menendez Brothers -- identify the item and give details of its discovery and any findings that may have been gathered from tests upon it.

As AP notes, a gunpowder-stained fingernail could be useful in determining how Clarkson was shot.

Shapiro has refused to reveal if there was any evidence found by the defense and said he did not feel obliged to surrender such evidence, if it exists.

Contacted by AP, Abramson declined to comment on the prosecution's request, but said she would be filing a response to the district attorney's motions before the next hearing, scheduled for Feb. 17.

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