Attorney Mark Geragos said the note bolstered Susan McDougal's claim that Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has pressured her to lie about President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"Now we've got one voice, at least, speaking from the grave in support of" Susan McDougal's story, Geragos said outside federal court.
Geragos said he had obtained the note within the past week and had confirmed that the handwriting was James McDougal's, but he would not say how he got it. Prison officials and Starr's office would not comment.
Earlier, Susan McDougal, 43, pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal contempt of court and obstruction of justice for refusing to answer questions from the Whitewater grand jury in September 1996 and again last month.
U.S. Magistrate H. David Young set a June 22 trial.
Geragos said McDougal was prepared to tell 12 jurors what she would not say to 23 grand jurors behind closed doors: whether Clinton testified honestly at her 1996 fraud trial.
"She's always been interested in answering that question if somebody's interested in hearing the truth," Geragos said. "I assume that we'll have 12 people who are interested in hearing the truth."
Leaving the courthouse today, McDougal said she was ready for the trial to begin.
Criminal contempt is punishable by a maximum fine of $250,000 and an open-ended prison term to be set by the judge. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum 10-year prison term with a $250,000 fine.
McDougal has repeatedly said she fears that Starr would charge her with perjury if her story differed from that of other Whitewater witnesses, including her former husband.
James McDougal died March 8 from a heart attack at a Texas prison where he was serving time for a 1996 fraud conviction in the Whitewater case. Susan McDougal and then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker of Arkansas also were convicted.
James McDougal began cooperating with Starr after his conviction, and Tucker also is cooperating to avoid prison on unrelated charges to which he pleaded guilty in February.
Susan McDougal has asked the court to reduce her two-year prison sentence in the Whitewater case to the 18 months she served for civil contempt. That term ended in March, and she immediately began serving her Whitewater sentence.
McDougal and her late ex-husband were partners with the Clintons in the Whitewater land development from 1978 to 1992. Prosecutors are seeking details about their business -- including legal work that Hillary Clinton performed for McDougal's savings and loan.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press