LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Henry Lee, the famous forensic expert who became the center of a controversy in Phil Spector's murder trial, says he may not testify after all.
Lee had been billed as the secret scientific weapon of Spector's defense, but now says he believes the record producer's team doesn't need him. He also is smarting from the judge's ruling that he removed evidence from the crime scene, which Lee strongly denies.
''I'm off to China,'' Lee said in a telephone interview from an airport Tuesday. ''It's up to the defense and my schedule whether I come back to testify. But it will cost a lot for them to bring me back.''
''They have so many experts,'' he said. ''One more or one less won't make a difference. I don't think my testimony will make the case or break the case .... I don't think they really need me.''
Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler has made a formal ruling that Lee removed evidence that was not turned over to prosecutors, a violation of rules of evidence.
He said it was ''ridiculous'' and maintained that he did not withhold evidence -- allegedly a piece of acrylic fingernail found at Spector's mansion after the gunshot death of actress Lana Clarkson.
''The bottom line is I did not take a fingernail,'' he said. ''But they made it a smoke screen. A little thing became a big thing. What for?''
He said he believes attorney Sara Caplan, a member of a former defense team, made a mistake when she testified at a hearing that she saw Lee pick up a small white object the size of a fingernail. He also labeled as ''even more ridiculous'' the testimony of a former sheriff's detective, Stan White, who claims he saw Lee pick up a whole fingernail bearing red nail polish.
In the weeks since the controversy erupted, Lee said prosecutors have subpoenaed his college records from some 40 years ago.
''Do they think I never got out of college?'' he asked. ''Why they have to spend so much public resources to find copies of my transcripts?
He said prosecutors also have been searching records about donations he made of about $1 million to the University of New Haven in Connecticut, which has a forensic studies program named for him.
''When I come to this country, I had $50 in my pocket,'' he said.
''I said if I ever have the money, I will help students learn about forensics. This country gave me a chance to grow and now it's my time to give back. It's my chance to teach.''
He said he will be spending the next two weeks traveling to seven provinces in his native China teaching courses, giving speeches and helping local authorities unravel cold cases.
As for the residual effect on his reputation, he said, ''I can live with my conscience. I didn't even know a fingernail was broken and I didn't find a fingernail. ... When they can't destroy the science, they try to destroy your reputation.''