Overruling defense objections that the prosecution is "grandstanding" and turning the "Twilight Zone" manslaughter trial into a "theatrical production," a judge agreed Wednesday to transport jurors to a Beverly Hills theater next week to view footage of the 1982 film scene that came before the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two child actors.
"We have a film of the actual incident involving the death of the victims in the case. This is highly unusual," said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roger W. Boren. "A professional setting for the film is appropriate."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D'Agostino said she plans to screen the footage--about 20 minutes worth, shot from six cameras--at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' theater, probably on Wednesday.
The film, described by both sides as shocking, does not show the actual deaths of the three victims by a helicopter that spun out of control amid special effects explosions during the shooting of a Vietnam War battle sequence.
Defense attorneys had strongly argued that they had no objection to the jury viewing the film, but said they preferred it be shown on videotape in Boren's courtroom rather than in the enormous theater.
"You're going to get into almost a theatrical production here," said defense counsel Leonard Levine.
"Well, it was one," replied Boren, cutting off heated arguments.
Later, Levine groused outside the courtroom, "The only thing that's missing is the popcorn and the jujubes . . . This is a trial."
D'Agostino, meanwhile, said: "Of course they don't want the jury to see that. They much rather the jury saw that on a little tiny television screen."
Boren said that to keep matters fair, he would authorize a return to the theater if defense attorneys deem it necessary when they present their own witnesses later on in the anticipated four-month trial. Boren also said that the film will be played for the jury several times during next week's showing because "it's like watching a football game on TV. With an instant replay, you might see a little more."
Later in the day, state deputy labor commissioner Colleen Logan testified, without jurors present, that she would not have granted a state permit to director John Landis, one of five defendants, allowing child actors to participate in scenes with special explosives nearby. The defense has objected to Logan's statements being presented before the jury, but Boren made no immediate ruling on the issue.