A prosecutor accused Phil Spector’s defense team Wednesday 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 heard five months of testimony.
“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.”
“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,” he said.
Jackson analogized it to Spector leaving huge tips for waitresses on the night he met Clarkson, an actress working as a nightclub hostess, and taking her to his hilltop castle, where she was fatally shot.
Did prosecutor go too far?
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.
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 Clarkson went home with Spector 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 that Jackson had improperly asked the jurors to become advocates for Clarkson, rather than impartial observers of the facts. The judge disagreed and allowed the comments to stand.
The judge has ruled that the jury will decide only whether Spector is guilty or not of second-degree murder, and cannot consider lesser offenses such as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
The penalty for second-degree murder is 15 years to life in prison. A convict has to serve 85 percent of the base term before becoming eligible for a parole hearing.
“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 to her name. 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.” He also suggested that Laughlin coached another witness to say that Clarkson was depressed.
Spector was famed for his “Wall of Sound” recording technique, which made him a leading producer of rock music in the 1960s and ’70s. Clarkson appeared in the 1985 cult film “Barbarian Queen.”