By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Clarkson, he told the jury, had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, suffered from chronic migraine headaches, had recently been dumped by a man with whom she’d hoped to form a new life, and was getting nowhere with the revival of her acting career. Then, gingerly addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Weinberg broached the subject of involuntary manslaughter, a lesser charge that Judge Fidler decided, in the trial’s waning days, to allow jurors to consider, should they find themselves unable to convict Spector on Murder Two. Involuntary manslaughter, Weinberg said, was no compromise for a jury to grasp at in case of a deadlock similar to the one that spiked Spector’s first trial in 2007. To “split the difference,” he said, was no option.
Weinberg concluded his argument at 2:14 p.m., after spending a full day and a half before the jury. At 2:15 p.m., without even a restroom break, Deputy District Attorney Jackson was at the podium to deliver the prosecution’s rebuttal. He immediately derided Weinberg and his protracted argument, describing the performance as “a filibuster” full of “parlor tricks” and likening Weinberg’s explanations of how the scientific evidence exonerated Spector (while proving how Clarkson had committed suicide) to a Rube Goldberg contraption.
Jackson, attired in a dark, chalk-striped suit that contrasted with Weinberg’s undertaker black, made good use of the floor space in front of the jury box, whether stepping toward jurors to drive home a point related to the discomfort Spector allegedly felt standing in front of Clarkson’s corpse, or rapping the witness stand to announce, of the previous six months of testimony, “If it don’t come out of this microphone, it ain’t evidence.”
The Texan Jackson can overplay his down-home y’all vernacular, but overall it was a vivid and welcome change from Weinberg’s dour recitation of his 14 points of doom. His storytelling talents fall somewhere between Horton Foote and Jim Thompson. And last Wednesday he was especially effective in excoriating Spector’s expert witnesses, whom he dismissed as “hired guns” whose testimony cost the defense $419,000 and who postulated, in order to prove Clarkson committed suicide, that blood spray from a gunshot wound could “loop around” a suicide’s wrists.
Jackson, attempting to disprove the defense thesis that Clarkson was a suicide waiting to happen, pointed to the eight pairs of shoes she had purchased the morning before she died. The very last words she wrote, Jackson noted, were in response to a party invitation and rang with expectation: “I can’t wait.”
The jury, however, had to wait until the next morning for the conclusion to Jackson’s argument after his rebuttal ran 35 minutes past the court’s normal closing time.
He opened the final day of his presentation with a baseball metaphor. And not just any metaphor but one using Joe DiMaggio’s record-setting 56-game hitting streak of 1941 to pooh-pooh what Jackson regarded as defense attorney Weinberg’s tortured use of statistics.
“Would you,” Jackson asked jurors, “turn away from your transistor radio when DiMaggio came to bat in that historic 56th game against Cleveland?” Notwithstanding that there were no transistor radios in 1941, it was a good rhetorical question, for Jackson’s point was that Americans were glued to that game not for the numbers but for the fact that a man with a bat in his hand could continue his hitting streak. Likewise, all the science Weinberg had thrown at the jurors, Jackson said, was either of the junk or meaningless variety.
“Every one of [his] points,” said Jackson, referring to Weinberg’s closing argument, “falls like [a] tin soldier.”
Jackson pounded Weinberg’s contention that, since none of Spector’s DNA had been found on the .38 Colt Cobra that killed Clarkson, it was obvious the famed music producer wasn’t holding the gun when it went off in the foyer of his home. Weinberg’s statement, Jackson said, was “a red herring” since the gun hadn’t even been examined for that DNA — the fact that the gun, like everything else in the house, belonged to Spector made testing it meaningless, and so it wasn’t.
In other words, Jackson was saying, Weinberg had taken the mere fact that the Colt Cobra had not been tested for DNA and turned this into a scientific statement that no such DNA had been found on the gun. Jackson noted that, while the county’s forensics specialists hadn’t bothered with what they regarded as a time-wasting DNA search, the defense’s experts could have subpoenaed the snub nose for their own tests but didn’t.
Similarly, Jackson took apart Weinberg’s reminder to jurors that no gunshot residue (GSR) had been found on Spector’s clothing and pointed out that, again, no such tests were conducted, since Spector owned so many guns that it would’ve been pointless to. Jackson also went after Weinberg’s statement that homicide investigators found no signs of a struggle in Spector’s foyer, suggesting this proved Clarkson had shot herself in the mouth with the gun rather than having had the revolver jammed between her teeth against her will by Spector before he fired it.
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