PLACERVILLE, Calif. – A Northern California couple charged with kidnapping Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years temporarily lost the right to talk to each other on the telephone Thursday because jail officials suspect they have been using the calls to coordinate their testimony.
El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister suspended the monthly phone conversations he had granted Phillip and Nancy Garrido in May.
The judge acted on a request by a lawyer for the Sheriff's Department who said the two inmates were abusing the privilege.
Outside court, County Counsel Edward Knapp said he did not yet have details on what the couple discussed during the five-minute chats that jail officials have been recording and reviewing.
The judge instructed Knapp to submit written evidence next week explaining why the calls should be discontinued permanently.
"Conversations between defendants in the same case are very problematical. We generally don't allow it," Knapp told reporters. "They are able to conform their testimony, to create false testimony in general."
The Garridos have been in custody since August 2009, when they were arrested in connection with the kidnapping of Dugard, then 11, outside her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991. Prosecutors say Dugard and her two daughters fathered by Phillip Garrido were hidden in a compound of sheds and tents in the backyard of the couple's Antioch home.
Nancy Garrido has pleaded not guilty. Criminal proceedings against Phillip Garrido have been put on hold because his public defender has expressed concern about his mental state.
He has undergone three court-ordered psychiatric evaluations, and a hearing on his competency to stand trial is scheduled to start Feb. 28.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said he wants a jury to reach a verdict on the competency issue instead of having a judge decide the matter.
Phillip Garrido's lawyer, Susan Gellman, said she may seek to have the hearing moved from El Dorado County because it has attracted so much interest and publicity.
Phimister said he was still considering a request from The Associated Press and other media organizations to unseal the transcripts from the grand jury that indicted the Garridos largely based on Dugard's testimony.
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