The Iran-Contra judge quashed a defense subpoena Friday for former President Reagan to testify at Oliver North's trial about any instructions he gave the ex-White House aide in the foreign policy affair.
U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell said North has not shown any reason to compel Reagan to appear at the trial."There has been no showing that President Reagan's appearance is necessary to assure North a fair trial," the judge wrote. "Accordingly, the subpoena is quashed."
At a hearing Thursday, North's lawyers told Gesell they need the former president's testimony to show North was authorized to act in the scandal by the highest-level Reagan administration officials.
Gesell issued his order a day after the prosecution concluded its case against North. Lawyers were summoned to the judge's courtroom for a 2 p.m. EST hearing Friday to iron out other legal matters.
Gesell excused the jury until Monday for a "customary period of lawyers' talk" that included Thursday's hearing and one on Friday.
The judge admonished the jurors not to read or watch anything about the case and suggested they go out and "look at the cherry blossoms," the flowering Japanese trees that are about to hit their pink peak around the capital.
In January, when Gesell quashed a North subpoena for President Bush, the judge said he has the "naked power" to force Reagan to answer the subpoena but would consider the former president's views on the issue before ruling.
Reagan's lawyers fought the demand for testimony, arguing North has not demonstrated a clear need for Reagan's appearance. The Justice Department fought the subpoena on constitutional grounds.
At a hearing Thursday, Gesell said that instead of "live testimony," he might permit the use of excerpts from Reagan's presidential diary or answers to written questions the former president submitted to the grand jury that indicted North in March 1988 on 12 felony charges.
But Barry Simon, one of North's lawyers, told the judge that Reagan is "clearly a material witness" and must be forced to testify.
Reagan now is a private citizen, Simon said, and his testimony would not threaten national security because it will be confined to the narrow charges in the case.