Will Nowak Space Rage Case Be Tried?

Ex-astronaut Lisa Nowak's prosecutor is weighing how to proceed.

Nov. 5, 2007— -- Will former astronaut Lisa Nowak be tried? It's hard to tell from the statement issued by the lead prosecutor.

"In reference to the November 2nd Court ruling in the above case, the state is currently reviewing the court's ruling and continues to prepare for trial. While the State understands the importance of this information to the community, this office does not want to create the type of publicity that would lead to a change of venue. Therefore, we will not comment further on the case itself."

Nowak won a huge legal victory Friday when Judge Marc Lubet granted motions to suppress her 72-page statement to police the night she was arrested last February and to toss out the evidence seized from her car.

The evidence collected from Nowak's BMW in a motel parking lot included maps to alleged victim Colleen Shipman's home, e-mails between Shipman and Bill Oefelein, large garbage bags, latex gloves and some used diapers.

Judge Lubet said in his ruling "It is incumbent upon this court that every citizen whether a prince or a pauper be treated equally … having considered the totality of the circumstances finds the defendant's' admission obtained by Detective Becton and the evidence obtained from the search of her vehicle must be suppressed."

Judge Lubet was criticized Detective Chris Becton's failure to answer Nowak's questions about a lawyer and her rights, and his refusal to allow her a phone call and his failure to obtain written consent to search her car.

Nowak's defense team has repeatedly denied she ever wore diapers to avoid stopping during her drive from Houston, but the detective who took her statement said Nowak told him she had.

Nowak was arrested after allegedly confronting Shipman, the girlfriend of former space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein. Authorities said Nowak stalked Shipman at the Orlando Airport and tried to get into her car, then attacked her with pepper spray. Shipman was able to drive away and report the attack to police, who tracked down Nowak nearby and arrested her. They didn't know until much later that she was an astronaut.

What evidence is left in the case against Lisa Nowak? There is everything inside a duffel bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested. A steel mallet, buck knife, BB gun resembling a real 9mm handgun, gloves and 6 feet of rubber tubing are all that remains in the case.

What does the prosecution lose without her statement to police to present to the jury? Defense attorney Chris Tritico says the prosecution still has a classic everyday case. "Ninety-nine percent of the cases that go to trial are tried without confessions; they still go to court. This ruling says the manner in which police took the statement violated Lisa Nowak's rights under the Fourth and Fifth amendments. That doesn't mean the case is over, because they have an abundance of other evidence. They have a victim who is willing to testify, and they still have the airport surveillance tape."

The airport surveillance tape shows Nowak wearing a wig and dressed in a trench coat, and it tracks her for several hours as she followed Shipman through the airport in Orlando.

Nowak's arrest was followed by a release of evidence that outlined the incident at the airport in great detail. The 72-page statement to police was stunning. The evidence seized from her car included steamy e-mails exchanged between Shipman and Oefelein, some written while he was in space last December.

Since Nowak's arrest, she has been terminated as an astronaut by NASA; months, later her former boyfriend Bill Oefelein was also let go by NASA. Nowak is now working on flight software for the Navy, and keeping a very low profile.

She is still scheduled to go to trial in April, but the dynamics of her case have changed dramatically.