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The defense in Phil Spector’s murder trial sought to show Monday that his Brazilian immigrant chauffeur’s English was so poor — and the man so frightened upon learning someone had just been shot to death at Spector’s home — that he wrongly implicated the music producer.
Driver Adriano De Souza, a key prosecution witness, testified last week that he saw Spector come out of his home about 5 a.m. on Feb. 3, 2003, with a gun in his hand and say, “I think I killed somebody.” De Souza said he looked into the home’s foyer and saw actress Lana Clarkson’s body slumped in a chair.
Defense attorney Bradley Brunon, during a cross-examination that lasted almost all day, noted that De Souza originally told officers who arrived at Spector’s home that morning that Spector told him, “I think I shot somebody.”
Then he asked him, “Do you think you might have heard, ‘I think somebody was killed?”‘
“No,” De Souza replied. “The words I heard were clear.”
De Souza couldn’t explain why he’d changed his statement from shot to killed, but the prosecution later showed the jury transcripts showing the chauffeur was responding to a question from a police officer who used the word shot and that De Souza had used the word killed numerous times before and after he spoke to the officer.
De Souza did concede that he was tired and hungry, as well as frightened after hearing what he thought was a gunshot and then seeing Clarkson’s body with blood on her face.
“It’s hard to see and hear exactly when something is so frightening, isn’t it?” Brunon asked.
“Yes, a little bit,” De Souza replied.
The defense claims Clarkson shot herself.
The actress, best known for a role in the 1985 film “Barbarian Queen,” was working as a hostess in a VIP room at the House of Blues when she met Spector shortly before 2 a.m. on Feb. 3, 2003. De Souza drove the couple to Spector’s home after Clarkson got off work.
Spector, who sat without expression during De Souza’s testimony, chatted amiably with his bodyguards and lawyers during a break in the trial.
Spector rose to fame in the 1960s and ’70s, transforming rock music with what became known as the “Wall of Sound” recording technique. He worked with such stars as the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, and produced solo albums by John Lennon and George Harrison.
Brunon also pointed out inconsistencies in where De Souza told various authorities Spector was holding a gun when he emerged from the mansion that morning. The attorney also displayed a picture of Clarkson’s body, with a gun at her feet.
Brunon also questioned whether De Souza was fluent enough in English to understand everything Spector told him or did that night.
“When you dream, do you dream in the Portuguese language or in the English language,” he asked at one point.
Prosecutor Alan Jackson objected, calling the question irrelevant.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler interrupted and spoke directly to De Souza.
“Do you dream, sir?” the judge asked.
“I dream,” the witness said.
“What language if any or both do you dream in?” the judge continued.
“Portuguese and English,” De Souza said.
When asked by Brunon what language he spoke at home, he replied, “Portuguese.”
Brunon then used a following question to suggest De Souza’s current abilities in English are better now than they were more than four years ago when Clarkson was killed.
“Back in 2003, before you had four additional, four-plus additional years of English, living in an English-speaking country, when you heard English at that time did you first translate it to Portuguese in your own mind and then translate the answer from Portuguese to English and then answer in English?” Brunon asked.
De Souza indicated he did that when he first started learning English, but, “At that time I was good in both languages.”
De Souza also testified that he’d gotten up 23 hours before Clarkson was killed and had been working most of that time. After chauffeuring people throughout the morning, De Souza testified, he’d taken a three-hour nap before picking up Spector in the late afternoon. After that he spent the next 10 hours taking the producer on a night of restaurant- and bar-hopping across Los Angeles.
During all those hours, De Souza said, he’d had nothing to eat or drink but potato chips and water.
De Souza also acknowledged he faced possible deportation because he didn’t fulfill all the requirements of his student visa, and that prosecutors had asked immigration authorities to defer deportation proceedings.
Brunon asked if that caused him to favor the prosecution.
“No sir, I’m here because of the right thing to do,” De Souza said.
Under redirect questioning, De Souza agreed with prosecution assertions that testifying in the trial doesn’t mean he will be able to stay in the United States and won’t earn him a place ahead any other immigrants seeking to stay.
The trial concluded for the day with prosecutors playing about the first 20 minutes of a videotape of De Souza’s interview with police hours after the shooting. Jurors were to watch the rest on Tuesday.
At one point, De Souza told police Spector was “completely drunk” the night Clarkson died.
Asked how he could know, he replied: “Because I drove him before and a couple of times he was drunk.”
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