Prospective juror in Spector case: 'I think he did it'
EmptyMusic producer Phil Spector was confronted Tuesday with prospective jurors who declared they had already decided he was guilty of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
"Honestly, I think he did it," a young aspiring actress said during jury selection. "I think I'm a fair person but it would be very difficult to forget what I read."
She said she believed celebrities often have things handed to them and as a result they "just act inappropriately."
"I moved out here to be an actress and I have strong morals," she said. "But it's easy to see how you start to think the world is just about you."
Clarkson was shot through the mouth in the foyer of Spector's suburban Alhambra home on Feb. 3, 2003, after going home with him from her job as a hostess at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Spector, a top record producer in the 1960s and '70s has pleaded not guilty to murder.
Prospects from a panel of about 100 that filled out questionnaires last month are being questioned to form the actual jury. Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said lawyers will begin on Wednesday to exercise challenges to remove prospects.
The next prospect questioned, also a woman, said she also concluded that Spector was guilty. But she said she had served on juries before and thought she could separate her opinions from evaluation of the evidence.
She had written on her questionnaire: "In my opinion Phillip is at fault for her death."
Asked by defense attorney Roger Rosen to elaborate, she said, "If she hadn't gone there she would be alive."
An immigrant woman who said her English was limited stated that she knew little about the case but felt "you have to know who's coming to your home for your own safety. ... I'm thinking if somebody's coming to your home you have to be responsible for your guest."
Another prospect who is a prosecutor said she could be fair.
Rosen moved on to a young woman who wrote on her questionnaire: "I think he's guilty, just like O.J. Simpson."
Under questioning the woman said she followed the Simpson case very closely, thought there was a lot of evidence to support his guilt and thought prosecutors did a bad job of presenting the evidence.
As a result, she said, she thought jurors did the right thing in finding there was a reasonable doubt, but she added that she still thought Simpson was guilty.
"In this case, do you equate Phillip with O.J. Simpson?" asked Rosen.
"Yeah, I guess that's right," said the woman.
Simpson was acquitted of the 1994 murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
Several prospects offered the opinion that Spector was responsible for Clarkson's well-being because he invited her into his home.
"I think if you invite someone over to your house you have an obligation to feed them, show them hospitality and protect them," said a male juror.
He was asked by Rosen if Spector might be responsible for Clarkson's death merely because she was a guest in his house.
"It's possible," said the man. "If there was a gun in the house, accidents do happen. But if you have weapons in the house you want to make sure they're not accessible, especially to guests."
Rosen noted that several prospects wrote on their questionnaires that they would like to hear Spector testify and would not be convinced of his innocence unless he did.
One wrote, "I think if a defendant doesn't testify he must have something to hide."
But after instructions by the judge and lawyers that a defendant is not under any obligation to testify, the prospects said they would not be biased against him.
Prosecutor Alan Jackson asked questions on points of law and offered interpretation of the law.
"You're being asked to judge a set of facts, not a person," he said, assuring them they would not be burdened with deciding a penalty for Spector because it is not a death-penalty case.
He asked how many were familiar with star forensics experts who are likely to testify for the defense.
Of the 18 people in the jury box, six raised their hands when asked if they knew of Dr. Henry Lee. One woman said she watched Lee's TV show and others remembered him from the Simpson trial.
"I think these experts are pretty cool," the woman said. "They bring their expertise and help to prove or disprove guilt. I respect that."
Questioning returned repeatedly to a network TV producer in the tentative panel. He was asked whether an expert's TV credentials would impress him.
"I think TV is kind of irrelevant," he said. "I would give the testimony equal weight whether they are on TV or not."