Last Words from Phil Spector's Lawyer Continue


Yesterday I wasn't feeling the star power of Deputy District Attorney Truc Do, after watching the first hour or so of her closing argument.
Do, who has co-prosecuted several high-profile cases over the past few years, including the Santa Monica Black Widows murder case and the Chester Turner serial killer trial, undeniably made some good, subtle talking points at the start. These contrasted homicide defendant Phil Spector's membership in the club of privileged rich males with gunshot victim Lana Clarkson and her life of taking hard but honest jobs. (The jury is half female and its members don't seem particularly partial to Hermes watches or Marc Jacobs handbags.)

Last Words from Phil Spector's Lawyer Continue

Spector, in Truc Do's portrait, was a venomous old toad who had snatched Clarkson, a total stranger to him, away from her late-night hostess shift at the House of Blues and to his Alhambra mansion where he fatally shot her in the mouth. You could practically hear Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" playing in the background. Not only that, but Spector had had similar gun-dates with seven other women over the years -- women who were lucky to have escaped with their lives, according to Do, in what she likened to a sick game of Russian Roulette.

Doron Weinberg photo: Lawrence K. Ho-LA Times/Pool

And yet Do appeared tentative - almost nervous - as she began her peroration to the jury. Today it's been Doron Weinberg's turn. Spector's defense lawyer immediately opened his closing argument by countering Do's image of Spector as some kind of Alhambra royalty who believed his droit de seigneur included shooting women in the mouth. The rich, Weinberg was saying this morning, are not different from you and me, and they do not enjoy an unfair advantage when cornered by the law. Nor, he said, were the defense's expert witnesses hired mercenaries willing to say anything for a paycheck. (Coincidentally, Linda Kenny Baden was sitting with Spector's wife and supporters today. She was one of Spector's five attorneys in his first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Her pathologist husband, Michael Baden, testified for the defense in that trial.)

"The case that Miss Do argued before you yesterday had nothing to do with the case the prosecution has made," Weinberg told jurors. "It relies on the starting proposition that [Spector] is a bad person and must have done it. They then set out to prove he did it."

Throughout the morning Weinberg, in his deep, mellifluous voice, hammered home his theme that, on the morning of February 3, 2003, lazy county criminalists had found themselves with a body on their hands located in Spector's home, and did everything they could to skew their analysis away from a theory of Clarkson committing suicide (the defense's position) and toward a second-degree murder committed by Spector. In other words, according to Weinberg, the county lab coats wanted the facts to conform to a homicide so they could then turn over their findings to their law-enforcement colleagues.

"Crime-lab investigators work with the Sheriff's Department.," Weinberg said. "They are a team and this influences the opinions and the judgments they make. It's not dishonesty but it's bias - institutional bias."

As Weinberg laid out what he considered 14 factual points that exonerated his client - which by now, after two trials, have taken on an almost folkloric recitation of blood spatter, gunshot residue and tooth-fragment trajectories - he himself seemed eager to accent or ignore certain bits of scientific evidence. At one juncture, he showed a slide projection of Clarkson's wrists with red circles superimposed over what he claimed were blood flecks, which caused co-prosecutor Alan Jackson to interrupt him. Jackson pointed out to Judge Larry Paul Fidler that not only did this particular photograph not have those helpful circles Photoshopped over it during when introduced during the trial, but that the concomitant testimony at the time made no acknowledgment that there was blood where Weinberg said there was.

Weinberg, nevertheless, has been a somewhat more effective presenter than Truc Do -- hardly surprising, given the decades of courtroom experience he has on her. Debonair, straightforward and seemingly candid, Weinberg is at ease moving around the podium instead of letting himself become anchored to it -- and he had no problem today handling the gun that killed Clarkson. Still, even he did not seem completely at ease this morning, seldom raising his voice to any dramatic intensity, and it remains to be seen if he truly opens up this afternoon to become the performer he briefly was before today's lunch break.

"I was born in Haifa," Weinberg had said, "at the foot of Mount Carmel. We have rock-solid mountains, they don't shift." He was tartly responding to Truc Do's PowerPoint photographs of sand dunes near her family's home in Vietnam - sand mountains that she likened to Weinberg's evidence.

If, as expected, Weinberg concludes by the end of today, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson will finish the trial Wednesday with a rebuttal argument. Court audiences have come to relish the Texan Jackson's drawling summations - storytelling that falls somewhere between Horton Foote and Jim Thompson. It will be interesting to see to which summit Jackson takes us. Despite his folksy demeanor, I doubt that it's going to be on top of Old Smokey.


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