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Surprise witness for Spector

Attorneys say Raul Julia Levy, an actor, has `intimate' knowledge of Clarkson that can tip the case for the defendant.

July 11, 2007|John Spano | Times Staff Writer

The lawyer for a surprise defense witness in the Phil Spector murder trial said Tuesday that his client has "intimate knowledge" of Lana Clarkson and can tip the balance for the defense.

The potential witness is Raul Julia Levy, an actor and producer and son of the late actor Raul Julia.

"If everybody believes my client like I do, he's going to contribute to reasonable doubt," said Levy's lawyer, John DeHart, of Los Angeles.

Levy and Clarkson were friends for many years and intimate for several years, DeHart said.

"You heard the district attorney's truth," DeHart said of the prosecution's case, which took two months. "Now you're going to hear the real truth."

Prosecutors, however, objected to Levy testifying because defense lawyers didn't disclose his identity until shortly before July 4.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler gave prosecutors until July 18 to research the new witness.

Levy is prepared to testify that the actress had a fascination with guns, a serious cocaine problem and had discussed suicide on a number of occasions during their relationship.

He did not take her suicide threats seriously, nor did other friends he spoke with, according to sources.

Prosecutors allege that a drunken Spector shot Clarkson in the mouth four years ago after a night of bar-hopping.

The defense has suggested that Clarkson, depressed over her stagnating acting career and battling drug abuse, killed herself.

The dust-up over Levy -- which led to a heated exchange between the judge and defense lawyer Roger Rosen -- comes as the defense opened its case in earnest this week, focusing on Clarkson's personality.

A good friend, writer David Schapiro, testified that Clarkson was under increasing financial pressure in the months before her death. He turned over to police a series of e-mails documenting her money woes.

"I am truly at the end of this whole deal," she wrote in late 2002. "I am going to tidy up my affairs and chuck it, because it is really all too much for one girl to bear anymore."

Another began, "I'm so tired of struggling to eat."

Yet another e-mail stated: "I'll have to bite the bullet and start doing amateur strip contests."

But Schapiro acknowledged that Clarkson was also prone to exaggeration. He said she was depressed, but he was never concerned about her committing suicide.

Earlier, a witness revealed that Clarkson got her big role in "Brentwood Blondes" because of her connections in the entertainment industry. John Barons, the playwright who cast her as Marilyn Monroe, said he also fired Clarkson because of her demanding and erratic behavior three months before her death.

Barons said Clarkson had only modest talent. Pressed on whether casting a mediocre actress was hypocritical, Barons acknowledged he had been "a bit shallow" in giving her the role. But he had cast her in hopes that some of her Hollywood friends would come and see his play, and be impressed by his work.

DeHart, Levy's lawyer, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that his client could "help the jury make up their minds."

"My client is not trying to hurt anybody," DeHart said. "He's still quite fond of" Clarkson.

john.spano@latimes.com

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