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Would-be witnesses in Spector's trial seem to be anything but camera-shy

Colorful figures eager to testify about victim won't necessarily have their day in court.

July 19, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Roger J. Rosen, one of Phil Spector's attorneys, warned in February that televising the legendary music producer's murder trial would bring "a rainbow of problems," including witnesses playing to the cameras and fame seekers trying to nudge themselves into the case.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler nevertheless decided the public benefit of a live broadcast offset the risks, and for the last three months, the trial has run smoothly.

But in recent weeks, the trial has been interrupted by hearings over potential defense witnesses eager to testify -- if only Fidler would let them before the camera.

They say they have information that Lana Clarkson was prone to drug and alcohol use, and despondent about her fading acting career, when she died of a gunshot wound on Feb. 3, 2002.

Spector's defense contends that Clarkson, 40, shot herself through the mouth after accompanying the music producer home from her job at the House of Blues nightclub.

Wednesday's court session had hardly begun when former Hollywood madam Jody "Babydol" Gibson, who served 22 months in prison for running a prostitution ring, arrived. Heads snapped as the leggy blond entered the courtroom in a navy suit with a deeply plunging neckline and a trace of a skirt peeping from the hemline of her jacket, her stiletto heels clicking with each step.

Gibson had planned to testify that Clarkson worked for her as a prostitute. Prosecutors said Gibson's "trick book," seized as evidence in her trial, had been doctored to include a fake Clarkson entry.

On Tuesday, Fidler had ruled the testimony was irrelevant, at least at this stage of the trial, but ordered Gibson back to court to remind her she was not to speak to the news media about the case.

Gibson, who days before had sent a reporter an e-mail protesting being barred from testifying, said through her attorney that she wanted to be able to talk to the media to promote her memoir, "Secrets of a Hollywood Super Madam."

Fidler clarified his order. "You may promote your book, but you may not mention Lana Clarkson in any shape, fashion or form. I am ordering you not do that," he said Wednesday.

Gibson, who has issued a steady stream of tips to the media since the trial began, said she would respect the court's order.

She also said she was offended by the prosecution's contention that her trick book had been altered. The documents have been in the court's custody since 1999, she said, adding "the allegations are really insulting."

Prosecutors on Wednesday filed a 3-inch-thick document assailing the credibility of another potential defense witness, Raul Julia Levy. Spector's attorneys said Julia Levy is the son of the late actor Raul Julia and a former boyfriend of Clarkson. Raul Julia's widow has publicly called Julia Levy an impostor.

In a lengthy statement, he claimed to have information about Clarkson's drug use and despondency before her death, and offered a reporter an interview.

The prosecution, in its filing, contended that Julia Levy -- whom they list as having six aliases -- had a history of making false statements to police and in legal filings. Levy's "long and varied history of run-ins with law enforcement" includes charges of driving under the influence, drug possession for sale, domestic violence, child cruelty, sexual assault and multiple allegations of providing false identification to police, the prosecutor's filing stated.

A Sheriff's Department investigation report included in the prosecutor's filing said Julia Levy had used fake names and Social Security numbers and falsely claimed to have attended Harvard University and USC.

Rosen declined to comment because he had not read the prosecution's filing. Fidler has not decided whether Julia Levy can testify.

Wednesday's proceedings before the jury, meanwhile, focused on whether the bloodstain patterns on Spector's clothing proved he could not have shot Clarkson.

The defense contends the blood spatter stains show Spector was standing too far from Clarkson to have held a gun in her mouth. Prosecutors argue that blood can only travel 3 feet from a gunshot wound. The defense counters that if the shot is fired in a person's mouth, the violent explosion in the mouth can propel the blood farther.

The trial is to resume Monday.

--

peter.hong@latimes.com

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