CNN's tapes of Manuel Noriega's jailhouse phone calls to his legal team are in the hands of a federal magistrate who will help determine whether the former dictator's right to a fair trial has been jeopardized.
The network handed over a briefcase full of tapes Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused over the weekend to lift U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler's temporary order barring CNN from airing the recordings.U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff will make and study transcripts and report to Hoeveler, who as the judge who will preside over Noriega's trial on drug trafficking charges will weigh a defense request to dismiss the case.
Hoeveler assigned Turnoff to listen to the tapes to avoid being "tainted" by having learned details of Noriega's defense strategy.
No time limit for reviewing the tapes was set, but Noriega's lead attorney, Frank Rubino, said the judge guaranteed it would done "with dispatch."
CNN attorney Steven Korn wouldn't say how many tapes were turned over. He would not discuss their contents or origins but said he was confident the judge will rescind his so-called prior restraint on broadcast of the tapes.