Sheriff’s crime lab specialists are trying to avoid TV exposure in the homicide trial of music producer Phil Spector, saying in court filings they fear for their safety if their faces are broadcast.
An attorney representing the news media countered in filings Thursday that “speculative” risks do not justify restricting public access to the trial.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler has already ruled he will allow gavel-to-gavel TV coverage once testimony begins, but said he would consider individual requests from those who don’t want to be seen on TV.
It was not clear when he will issue a decision on the dueling motions.
Spector is accused of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 after taking her to his suburban Alhambra home from a Sunset Strip club where she was working as a hostess.
The Los Angeles County counsel filed a motion March 22 on behalf of the sheriff’s department outlining the crime lab employees’ concerns.
The motion said argued the safety of the crime lab specialists — who “often are assigned to work on extremely sensitive cases regarding violent individuals and violent criminal street gangs” — could be compromised if they are recognized in public.
“Such a generalized fear is so speculative and broad that it could be used to shield the identity of every law enforcement witness in every case,” said Sager, who represents a coalition of news media, including The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Court TV.
“There simply is no ground for restricting coverage of this trial based on such speculative concerns,” she said.
The sheriff’s motion suggested that cameras focus on another area of the courtroom while the criminalists testify, allowing witnesses’ voices to be recorded and broadcast later; asked that the names of crime lab workers who sit at the counsel table be kept secret; and that they not be photographed outside the courtroom.
Sager opposed the restrictions as “flatly unconstitutional.” She urged the judge to reject the request, “to promote public confidence in and understanding of the judicial system.”
Jury selection resumes April 16.