Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phil Spector Retrial: Opening Statements

Prosecution and defense opening statements were presented today in the retrial of Phil Spector who is facing one count of second degree murder in the February 3rd, 2003 shooting death of Lana Clarkson.

I have lots of notes and I can't possibly transcribe them all. This will be a very short highlight of today's events and when I get the free time, I will put up more detailed notes on the opening statements later. Mr. Sprocket came to court with me today but did indicate that he probably won't be back until closing arguments. There were some familiar faces in the gallery; Linda Deutsch, Harriet Ryan, Donte, Miriam Hernandez, Louis Spector and his companion Frieda, and lots of new ones like blog reader Linda and her friend Paula, who is working towards a degree in criminal justice.

In the afternoon session I see Detective Tomlin as well as Juror #9 who said he is going to come whenever he can. Ciaran McEvoy, now with the LA Daily Journal was also a welcome, familiar face. The Clarkson family and their attorneys were there, sitting in the front row. There were quite a few reporters that I didn't recognize, but I did get to meet the Telegraph's US correspondent, Kathryn, who I sat next to in the third row in the morning session.

The courtroom ended up being packed with a mix of general public and seasoned reporters. There were five reporters on laptops in the back row, Harriet being one of them.

A man who was a juror on the Black Widow trial that Truc Do prosecuted, brought his wife to the morning session thinking that Do would be presenting part or all of the opening statement. I believe they left around lunch time when they learned that AJ would be handling the entire opening.

AJ hit it out of the ballpark. At least, that was my impression. To me, some jurors appeared transfixed soon after the lights were dimmed and the prosecutions slide presentation was up on the ELMO; AJ took them on a journey of the five women in Spector's life with whom he became enraged when they told him they wanted to go home. I watched one alternate in the front row who looked like her jaw was hanging open a ways the entire time AJ was speaking.

Very early on in his presentation, AJ put up on the ELMO the words that Vincent Tannazzo testified to in Spector 1. "Women are all f***ing "C's". They all deserve a bullet in their heads." This was to show the "real" Phil Spector.

I freely admit I am a fan of AJ. I've had the opportunity to see him work his magic not only in Spector 1, but in pre-arraignment hearings on the Kazuyoshi Miura matter, a case that sadly ended when Miura took his own life less than 12 hours back on US soil.

But don't start thinking that this trial is a "slam dunk" for AJ and Ms. Do yet. Weinberg is a worthy adversary whose courtroom style is low key and worlds away from that dysfunctional group of combative egos in round 1. His best argument that I heard in the courtroom was bringing to the jurors attention that Adriano DeSouza, in speaking to the 911 operators and other sheriffs immediately after Lana's death, "...reconstructed the critical statement eight different ways..." of what Spector said when exiting the house, before settling on, "I think I killed somebody."

Weinberg points out that what he initially said to the first 911 operator was "I think, I think he said, I killed somebody. It's my English. I"m not sure." Weinberg then says the evidence will show "...officers then promote and encourage the most incriminating of the eight versions."

Where Burce Cutler, in a loud accusatory voice, claimed DeSouza didn't understand English, was napping and having a little siesta in the car with snacks and cookies, Weinberg tells the jurors that,

"He's a human being, and he's not sure what he heard. [...] Adriano has convinced himself what Mr. Spector said. He's the star of the case. Mr. DeSouza is wrong because he's a human being. He's not a tape recorder. We will prove to you that his perception was wrong. If it wasn't for the confession, we wouldn't be here."

Weinberg plans on attacking the credibility of Vincent Tannazzo. Weinberg told jurors that Vincent Tannazzo, supposedly a retired LE, only came forward with his statements recently, at the first trial and the evidence will show he is not what he appears to be.

Another argument that I felt had some merit were the ones based on the science. There was no GSR on Spector; no blood spatter on Spector's right sleeve jacket; the trajectory of the bullet was consistent with a self inflicted wound. There was no evidence of a struggle between Lana Clarkson and Phil Spector and there was no evidence of Spector's DNA under Lana's nails nor was there any torn clothing.

It remains to be seen whether or not the jury will consider it crucial that 1) the physical evidence could not answer manner of death and Dr. Pena was directed by his superiors not to order a psychological autopsy on Lana, instead utilizing an independent investigator to help them "determine the facts." Weinberg told the jury, "Lana Clarkson's body would look exactly the same if she was shot or responsible for shooting herself.

One of the weakest arguments for me was, "The evidence will show that there was physical evidence of sexual intimacy before she died. Phil Spector's DNA was on Lana Clarkson's left breast. Lana Clarkson's DNA was found on Phil Spector's scrotum. There's no basis of fact that he didn't want her to leave because he wanted sexual activity [...] in the face of those DNA facts.

To me, that's not enough DNA to prove Spector was "satisfied" with the outcome of the sexual contact. To buttress the claim that Spector was not holding Lana against her will, Weinberg tells the jurors that he still had the driver outside, waiting to take her home. That's not holding her against her will.

Weinberg skips over the facts about the dead bolt latch. The set screw was tampered with so that the exterior latch part of the bolt could instantly be pulled off with the bolt in the extended position, effectively locking someone inside the house.

I don't know how to get a feel for this jury, yet. It's a new trial and like I've mentioned before, a totally different vibe in the courtroom from last time. Towards the end of the court day, three male jurors in the back row had their arms crossed in front of their chests. One of those jurors nervously rocked a bit in his chair. It appeared to me at times that Juror #6, the research scientist was closing his eyes and possibly napping.

Dorothy Melvin will be the first witness in the box tomorrow morning. She's put on a little bit of weight, cut and curled her hair and I didn't recognize her at all!

Read Michelle Blaine's blog for her comments on Weinberg's claim that Lana was depressed and near the end of her rope. Michelle gets it spot on.

I hope to get a more detailed transcript up of opening statements but it will take me several days to get it up.


Karen said...

It looks like you are to be our only contact with the trial. I can't tell you how much I appreaciate your updates :)

Thank you very much!!

Mindy said...

Thank you so much for posting this, I could not wait to get home and see what it was like on the first day. Keep an eye on Juror #6 he may become an issue.

Thanks again for all your hard work on this, I will be here everyday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the report Sprocket. Sounds like the defense is taking a bit of a different approach this time. I agree with you about the DNA regarding the sexual activity. DNA transfer does not always equal sexual activity for goodness sake. PS could have touched Lana's breast (before or after death) and then scratched himself in the groin. I think that's easily argued and a weak stmt for the defense to make. However, the stmt about DeSouza is more believable. The mind can make you think you heard something when you really haven't - although I do believe DeSouza heard a confession. Hopefully he will do will on the stand again. I thought he did well in the first trial while other's may disagree with me. It should be an interesting couple of months to say the least. I am disappointed that there is no media coverage of this trial, but at least we have your blog! Thank you so much for the reports!

Damsel said...

Thank you for the update!! Sounds like it will be an interesting trial. I don't believe for a moment that Lana shot herself. And I really don't think the jury will either due to his past which AJ will show in stunning detail. Thanks for being our eyes and ears Sprocket! I'll be watching for more updates.


Jurorthirteen said...

Great Blog Sprocket!!! I told my readers you're the next best thing to live video feed!!!

Christine said...

Dear Sprocket, Thank you for your first hand account. Have you seen the articles in the UK Telegraph about the video about Spector and today's trial. Very interesting. Of course I plan on coming here first to hear your impressions as you always have some interesting observations as well as good reporting.

Henry said...

Thanks for your commentary. Very thorough.

Doron Weinberg can be very unctuous and slimey. You watch. The judge in the child molestation case of Dr. William Ayres had to recuse himself a few months ago because of his "antipathy" toward Weinberg. Ths San Mateo DA is investigating to see if he has pulled some fast ones.

I find his clients to be repugnant, like Bernie Ward, convicted of child porn, Dr. Ayres and the sad, sad specter of Phil Spector.

Sedonia Sunset said...

IIRC, there was not enough DNA material for them to positively identify it as belonging to Lana Clarkson -- they just couldn't rule her OUT. Phil ALSO had DNA from two MEN on his genitals that night. I don't imagine his attorney said anything about THAT, though. I'm guessing that there was some sort of transfer from handles or faucets or whatever in the Men's Room(s).

Sprocket, thank you so much for all your dedicated work on this and so many other issues!

Suzi said...

Great report, Sprocket! Thanks for being our eyes and ears. This media "black-out" is so very unfair.

I also can't believe the "Lana did it to herself" crap. It's beyond the pale but then, I believed that to be true at the first trial. I have faith in AJ and sounds like's doing another great job.

Sprocket said...

You're welcome everyone. I will try to answer comments every morning, but if I wake up late, I won't be able to do it until I get back home.

Mindy, juror #6 already made himself an issue and both sides are aware of it. I would have thought that once the alternates were seated, either side could make a bid to replace him with a seated alternate. No one did.

When I arrived at court, there was still "discussions" as to "who" would provide the pool camera. Since Channel 7's Miriam Hernandez was the first accredited reporter on the 9th floor (I was there way early and so was she), Ch 7's video camera guy was brought in. He started to set up and Wendy came over to tell him he wouldn't be able to wear shorts in the courtroom. He had to go change into pants.

After the courtroom was almost full of the general public and reporters, another camera was set up. The female reporter and the camera operator were speaking in a foreign language. (That camera operator had to change out of his shorts, too!) Mr. Sprocket guessed it was French, but it didn't sound like the French I took in seventh grade.

These were not "live streaming" cameras. Those require a cable feed to a truck. There may have been remote trucks nearby, but when I arrived at court around 8:10 am, I did not see any in the lot behind the court. They could have arrived later.

Kitty, the defense is taking a much different tactic in their presentation and as to what testimony they are going to challenge. They are going to challenge DeSouza big time. They are going to challenge Vincent Tannazzo's motive to come forward during the first trial.

They claimed in OS that Lana's DNA was found in "other places" on the gun other than the bloody areas, and the fact that she had to have been holding it with both hands facing backwards because there was blood on the grip. If Spector was holding the gun with his hand covering the grip, then, consequently the grip of the gun would not have all the blood on it that it does. See how they are going to "spin" the scientific evidence.

damsel: You know that AJ will present an excellent case. However, there is always the possibility that there could be another hung jury!

jurorthirteen: I will try my best to give as much detail aa I can, but understand that I don't have an office in the courthouse like most of the reporter's do. I am taking the train home before I can write up my notes.

christine: I have not had one moment to read the accredited press. I hope to get caught up over the weekend, but it will be hard. I have sewing orders to get out on Saturday and Sunday.

henry: During the breaks, both sides made objections to the court that they had "crossed the line" outside of opening statements and entered into argument. I'll have more on that, tonight when I get home.

Iona Trailer said...

Hi Betsy -

I'm so glad you are attending the trial and writing about it. My prayers are with Donna and Fawn and Jeff. Keep up the good work -

Julie Beardsley

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being our sole source of detailed information!

Did Weinberg really say, "If it wasn't for the CONFESSION we wouldn't be here"? Or was it something more along the line of 'alleged confession', or 'misquoted statement' or something like that? Using 'confession' without a qualifier would have been pretty much the equivalent of an admission there was something to confess to.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, my previous question about Weinberg's words was inartfully explained. The defense's position is that DeSouza misunderstood what PS said, and that he didn't confess to anything. If he made an unqualified statement that there was, in fact, a confession, he's pretty much shot himself in the foot. Uh... as it were.

Kind of like the lawyer in the Anthony case asking for sympathy because her daughter's dead.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 2:37 pm:

I'm trying to remember how Mr. Weinberg said those words to the jury.

I don't have anything in my notes to qualify it. In other words, what I'm trying to say is, I don't know if he made a notion around the words in his tone, sort or wrapping the words, "the confession" in quotes with his tone, to set them apart. I seem to think he might have, but I don't have anything written down to substantiate that. Just the words. I'm sorry if I haven't fully address your question.

Understand that I wasn't able to watch him speak and write at the same time.

Weinberg is basically claiming that the fountain was on and it's quite loud, and that would have contributed to what DeSouza "thinks" he heard.

"DeSouza is not a native speaker, his ear is not tuned to a native speaker," Weinberg said to the jury.

The defense will attack his credibility as best they can. DeSouza, on the stand for (I think) four days in the first trial stood firm with those words. Brunon could not get him to budge on that.

The defense will also attack the credibility of Dorthy Melvin and Vincent Tannazzo.

Sprocket said...

I am closing the comments on this entry now. Please leave your comments on the newer entry.

Thank you.