Ronni Chasen Legal Fight: Police May Turn Over Limited Files for Documentary Film

A lawyer for the Beverly Hills Police Department told a judge Tuesday that it will turn over some documents concerning its handling of the investigation into the killing of the Hollywood publicist.
Ronni Chasen

A filmmaker is a step closer to revealing new details of the investigation into the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.

During a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, Beverly Hills Police Department attorney T. Peter Pierce told Judge James C. Chalfant that his client would share some documents related to its handling of the Chasen murder case -- just not anything about how the investigation itself went down.

Documentary filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach, currently working on 6:38: The Death of Ronni Chasen, sued the department for the case file in November, citing the California Public Records Act. He maintains that it should be released because the BHPD previously allowed one of its own staffers, senior forensics specialist Clark Fogg, to co-author a book, Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murder, which drew on his inside knowledge of the investigation for one of its chapters.

Chasen, a veteran PR executive, was gunned down in her Mercedes-Benz while driving through Beverly Hills after the Nov. 16, 2010, premiere of Burlesque. The BHPD ruled the case closed after the suspect, Harold Martin Smith, killed himself in a flophouse in Hollywood. Katzenbach believes that there might be some truth to alternative theories of the killing (some believe Smith didn't act alone) and that an open review of the case file would show that the department wasn't diligent enough in its investigation.  

Q&A: Ronni Chasen Documentary Director on Autopsy Revelations, Unanswered Questions 

Katzenbach’s original filing named the Los Angeles County Coroner as a defendant and separately demanded access to Chasen's autopsy. The coroner complied with his request Dec. 12.

Pierce tells The Hollywood Reporter that the BHPD will now provide Katzenbach with documents on Apr. 2 that are responsive to specific questions that the filmmaker posed in advance of a potential trial. “We will be providing some of them -- ancillary sorts of documents,” says Pierce. “I want to be clear that these are not related to the Chasen case file itself. The city doesn’t think it’s required to turn those over.”

Katzenbach, acting as his own counsel, explains that the broad questions he submitted ranged from the department’s handling of Confidential to any special treatment afforded the Chasen family due to the case’s high-profile nature. “It will be interesting to see what information they object to providing and on what basis,” he says of the BHPD.

Pierce and Katzenbach will meet after Apr. 2 to determine whether the two sides can arrive at a suitable compromise. If not, Judge Chalfant has already specified another trial-setting date in his courtroom for May 20.