One of the more peculiar moments in a Monday hearing in the ongoing Roman Polanski criminal case came at the very beginning, when Polanski’s lawyer, Harland Braun, acknowledged to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon that he had taken off the calendar his previous request that testimony by former deputy district attorney Roger Gunson be unsealed.
The Gunson testimony has been at the heart of attempts to resolve the case. Taken on a provisional basis when it appeared Gunson’s life might be in danger from illness, it touches on a supposedly broken promise by the late Judge Laurence Rittenband to limit Polanski’s sentence for a 1977 statutory rape conviction to time he served during a prison psychiatric evaluation. Only a month ago, Braun insisted that opening the sealed testimony was among his principal aims. “I am only interested in obtaining the Gunson transcript and obtaining a ruling on whether a California court will respect the ruling of the Polish Court,” he wrote in a February 21 email, which referred both to the testimony and to a determination in a Polish extradition hearing that Polanski should remain free.
That Braun, at least for purposes of the Monday hearing, was pushing his Gunson demand to the side lent credence to what my colleague Dominic Patten has spotted: Rumors that Polanski’s lawyer and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, though still at loggerheads in court, have been talking.
Another straw in the wind was Braun’s courtroom explanation of his request that the district attorney agree to at least a temporary suspension of an outstanding warrant for Polanski’s arrest, so that he might fly in from France without fear of apprehension, and a court appearance in the blue jump suit and handcuffs that graced other defendants in Judge Gordon’s courtroom on Monday. “The people misunderstood” the request, said Braun; he assured that it was only meant to allow for Polanski’s return. “He’ll fly in from Paris,” Braun told Gordon.
As Patten has reported, deputy district attorney Michele Hanisee was having none of it. Several times, she reiterated the DA’s position: That Polanski, who fled before sentencing decades ago, can’t dictate the terms of his return.
But concern about lifting the warrant sounded like an issue that would figure in talks of a sort that were already under way last November, when Braun and Hanisee huddled with Gordon in chambers, as described in a letter Braun sent to Gordon on February 2. And soft-pedaling the Gunson demand could ease concerns about potential embarrassment to a court and DA’s office that in the past were accused of colluding to Polanski’s disadvantage.
Whether an agreement to resolve the case remains possible is anyone’s guess. But Gordon, as he took the latest arguments under submission on Monday, advised the parties to “keep conferring, as I know they have.”