Kevin Winter/ Getty Images
Kevin Winter/ Getty Images
That, more or less, is what a judge will seek to determine as attorneys for both Gibson and his verbally-, emotionally- and allegedly physically-abused ex Oksana Grigorieva turn up in court this morning to determine which side is better suited to take custody of their 8-month-old daughter, Lucia.
This is gonna be some battle, and both sides have stacked their respective benches…
...not that it seemed to matter much for one side.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed to E! News that those infamous audio tapes have already been accepted by the court and will no doubt feature heavily throughout the hearings.
"The detective for the domestic violence investigation just left court with the audio tapes," he said during the lunch recess. "The court released the tapes and they will be booked into evidence. They will be analyzed and reviewed not only by detectives, but by forensic detectives as well."
Score one—score a big one—for Team Oksana.
The hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, is being presided over by Commissioner Scott Gordon, who also settled Britney Spears and Kevin Federline's custody battle.
Officials from the L.A. Sheriff's Department and the Department of Children and Family Services were all present for the hearing, which was closed off to media, ostensibly to offer their expert testimony. Neither Grigorieva nor Gibson was expected to attend the proceedings.
Among those waiting to take the stand were Det. Jack Tarasiuk from the Sheriff's computer crimes unit, who was expected to be called on to discuss the ever-leaking tapes, and Sgt. Dan Scott, with the department's special victims unit, who is an expert in child abuse. Both men, however, were quickly excused from the hearing without testifying. Neither commented on why he was present nor why he had been asked to leave.
Maybe because they weren't sure themselves.
"I can confirm that I'm representing Ms. Grigorieva," new spokesman Steve Jaffe told E! News. "At this point, at least until later today, that's all I can say because it remains to be seen what the hearing will be about today.
"There will be no statements today, as I understand it from the attorneys. The hearings next week will occur on July 20, 22 and 23. There's a chance of some kind of statement then. If this changes, I will try to let you know but nothing is planned."
As for their counsels, Grigorieva is being repped by Marci Levine, while Gibson has gone with defender-to-the-stars Blair Berk.
Earlier today, Team Mel argued that the oh-so-damning tapes were edited by Oksana & Co. and therefore should be inadmissible in court. The Sheriff's Department is currently reviewing the tapes as part of its investigation into domestic violence charges against Mel and will have to authenticate the clips and prove they have not been tampered with before sending them to the District Attorney's office.
Team Oksana, meanwhile, is sticking to their story that the tapes have not been messed with and show Mel in his true, outrageously unflattering glory. And just in case she didn't have enough on Gibson, per TMZ, she's also been receiving a series of harassing phone calls over the past 48 hours and is pointing the finger at her temper-flaring ex, saying that while he is not making the calls, he is almost certainly behind them.
Meanwhile, as if the tapes weren't damning enough against the 54-year-old Gibson, according to RadarOnline, part of Grigorieva's sealed declaration to the court in the custody battle include photos of little Lucia with bruising on her chin. The site contends that the injuries were caused by Gibson and sustained while he was in a violent altercation with the 40-year-old Grigorieva. On one of the earlier tapes, she said that Gibson punched her in the face and knocked her two front teeth out while she was holding the baby and said that her ex "tried to kill us." That incident allegedly occurred on Jan. 6.
As of the hearing's recess, the domestic violence portion of today's hearing has ended. The two child abuse investigators remain at court and will ostensibly be called this afternoon.
"The lead detective is there that is doing the domestic violence investigation and then we have a couple of detectives that work out of our special victim's bureau which has to do with investigating child abuse," Whitmore said.
As for why they may be called, Whitmore has yet to confirm whether it has to do with Grigorieva's allegations that he hit their daughter. Though that's basically the only possibility.
"I can't tell you yet, but that's what they do, they investigate child abuse allegations."
—Reporting by Whitney English
(Originally published on July 15, 2010 at 10:54 a.m. PT)