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Defense attorneys claim authorities deliberately destroyed evidence in the...

By ROGER BENNETT

LOS ANGELES -- Defense attorneys claim authorities deliberately destroyed evidence in the Vicki Morgan murder case to further a conspiracy, but prosecutors say the damage was a foulup, not a coverup.

Arthur Barens, attorney for the talent agency clerk accused of the battering death of the former mistress of presidential confidant Alfred Bloomingdale, said Wednesday his client is a victim of a conspiracy to suppress a book in which Miss Morgan would place government officials in compromising sexual situations.

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On the third day of testimony in the trial of Marvin Pancoast, the defense hammered at the fact the police did not test the suspected murder weapon for fingerprints and blood stains until three weeks after the crime.

'There is no reasonable explanation possible why they waited an excessive period of time,' Barens said outside court. 'We're dealing with a woman who had high level information ... who died just as she was about to deliver a book in which she was going to name government officials she had been involved with.'

A police fingerprint expert testified she found no prints on the baseball bat prosecutors say Pancoast used to bludgeon Miss Morgan to death July 7, 1983, at the condominium they shared. The defense indicated police mishandled the bat and destroyed any possible prints.

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'Suppose someone else's prints were on that bat. It would be the slam dunk of this case and Marvin Pancoast goes free,' said co-defense counsel Ted Mathews. 'Somebody doesn't want that evidence here (in court).'

Police expert Cynthia Slauson said she did not expect to find fingerprints on the bat because prints would not likely be left on the porous surface.

But a police blood expert said the delay and the chemicals used in the fingerprint tests 'effectively destroyed' any chance of determining whose blood was on the bat -- which belonged to Miss Morgan's teenage son.

'I have serious doubts that bat is the murder weapon,' Barens said. 'I lean toward conspiracy,' he said when asked if he thought the handling of the bat was a conspiracy or just negligence.

Prosecutor Stanley Weisberg called the allegation '... a lot of hot air, a smokescreen.' Weisberg said the mishandling of the bat was due to 'a bureaucratic foulup in the Police Department' that happened when investigators thought they had requested the tests but found later they had not been done.

The jailer on duty the night Pancoast turned himself in, and the chief detective on the case both testified Wednesday the suspect calmly volunteered to them that he had just killed Miss Morgan.

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'I did it. I did it. I killed Vicki. I hit her with a baseball bat,' Detective William Welch quoted Pancoast as saying.

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