A prosecutor unleashed a fierce attack on the Phil Spector defense Wednesday, accusing the team of using the music producer’s money to “buy” scientific opinions, calling witnesses who sought the limelight and dragging the reputation of the dead Lana Clarkson through the mud.
“Lana Clarkson through the evidence in this case has suffered and endured something that no human being should have to endure — she’s been murdered twice,” Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson said in his closing argument to a jury that has sat through five months of testimony in the murder case.
“She was murdered once on Feb. 3, 2003, by Phillip Spector when he put a gun in her mouth and that gun went off,” he said. “And her character has been assassinated over the last four months through the presentation of the defense evidence, attempting to paint her in a way that simply isn’t true.”
Spector, 67, is accused of second-degree murder in the death of the 40-year-old Clarkson. The defense claims she was depressed and shot herself. The jury is expected to get the case Friday after both sides conclude arguments.
The prosecutor said Spector’s team presented “a checkbook defense.”
“You hire enough lawyers to hire enough experts. If you pay someone enough money you can get them to wear a tutu in court. You can get them to say just about anything in court. “
Jackson analogized it to Spector leaving huge tips for waitresses on the night he met Clarkson, an actress working as a nightclub hostess, and took her to his hilltop castle where she died.
“I want you to say, ‘Can I trust this defense?”‘ Jackson told jurors. “…You have to ask yourself is the evidence they’re presenting trustworthy or an effort at manipulation.”
When jurors left court for lunch, defense attorneys complained that Jackson had gone over the line with accusations that suggested Spector’s attorneys told witnesses what to say.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler agreed that was improper and said he would instruct jurors on the point. He also said Jackson stepped over the line when he offered his own observations of Spector’s mansion on the day jurors visited there. Jackson said he saw a half-empty bottle of tequila in the bar. The judge said he didn’t see it and it was not the prosecutor’s role to point out something not in evidence.
But the defense lost a bid to strike Jackson’s opening volley in which he asked jurors to become witnesses for Clarkson, following her into the parking lot where she left the House of Blues nightclub with Spector and reluctantly agreed to go home with him in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 3, 2003.
“If you could say but one thing to Lana Clarkson in that parking lot, what would you say?” Jackson asked.
“You’d lean over and you’d whisper, ‘Don’t go. Don’t go.’ You’d simply say, ‘Lana, don’t go,”‘ Jackson said.
“The reason that you would say that is because you know something she didn’t know,” he continued. “You know the real Phil Spector. … You know in your heart of hearts he is responsible for her death. He killed her.”
Jackson also suggested that the reason Clarkson went home with Spector was because she was seeking a break in her acting career and had been told by a House of Blues employee to consider him “golden.”
Defense lawyers complained to the judge that Jackson had improperly asked the jurors to see things through the victim’s eyes and to become her advocate rather than impartial observers of the facts. The judge disagreed and allowed the comments to stand.
The judge has ruled that the jury will only decide whether Spector is guilty or innocent of second-degree murder, and will not have the option of considering lesser offenses such as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Jackson defined second-degree murder and implied malice for the jury repeatedly and drew a mistrial motion from the defense, which said he had given them the option of finding murder by accident. Attorney Dennis Riordan said that was an instruction for involuntary manslaughter. The motion was denied but the judge said there would be an instruction to clear up the matter.
“If the gun was in his hand and he was pointing the gun at Lana Clarkson, I don’t care how that gun went off, the case is second-degree murder,” Jackson told the nine men and three women of the jury.
The prosecutor replayed for the jury an audio tape of a 911 call from Spector’s chauffeur reporting that his boss had killed somebody. And he highlighted driver Adriano De Souza’s testimony that Spector came out the house with a gun in his hand after a gunshot was heard.
“He said Phil Spector, seconds after the gunshot, literally had the smoking gun in his hand, in his right hand, across his waist,” Jackson said. “He literally had Lana Clarkson’s blood on his hand. He looked Adriano De Souza right in the face, they were standing four to six feet apart … and Phil Spector looks at him and says, ‘I think I killed somebody.”‘
Jackson reserved his harshest words for a witness who said she was Clarkson’s best friend and testified that Clarkson was depressed over a fading career in her last days.
The woman, known as Punkin Pie Laughlin, was ridiculed by Jackson for everything from the way she dressed when she came to court to her name — “Can you imagine naming yourself for a Thanksgiving dessert?” He said she changed her initial account that Clarkson was not noticeably depressed.
Jackson said the witness “without question has chased the limelight from the day Lana Clarkson died.”
“Can you really believe the sob story she told you?” he asked, referring to the witness crying on the stand as she recalled the loss of the woman she called her sister. He also suggested that Laughlin coached another witness to say that Clarkson was depressed.