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Spector judge may allow TV footage of witness who died

July 30, 2008|Harriet Ryan | Times Staff Writer

The judge in the Phil Spector murder retrial gave prosecutors tentative permission Tuesday to use Court TV footage of the testimony of a witness who died after the legendary producer's first trial ended in a hung jury.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler said he would make a final ruling after he screened a DVD of Dianne Ogden's testimony, but said video was more accurate than reading transcripts. Spector's attorneys had asked that jurors rely only on the transcripts.

"Demeanor can't be shown in a transcript," Fidler said.

The ruling may be moot depending on another motion pending before Fidler.

The defense is challenging the admissibility of the testimony of Ogden and four other women who told jurors last year that Spector threatened them with guns in the decades leading up to the 2003 fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson.

Ogden died in December of an accidental overdose of a prescription medication.

Spector's attorneys objected to the Ogden tape, saying the fact that "an entertainment company" operated the cameras made it suspect.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson said video to be played for jurors was a raw feed from a camera that the network, now known as Tru TV, kept trained on the witness stand.

"There are no commercials; there's no commentary," Jackson said.

The judge denied a defense request not to show jurors the videotaped cross-examination of Ogden.

Spector's former attorney, New York lawyer Bruce Cutler, drew the ire of Ogden, the judge and his client with an aggressive, bombastic approach that included yelling at the witness.

His role in the defense was curtailed afterward and he left the case before the end of the trial.

Fidler denied a prosecution attempt to bar Spector's lawyers from mentioning how Ogden died.

"It depends on whether there is something that would reflect on her credibility at the time she gave her testimony," the judge said.

Fidler also rejected a defense attempt to limit the testimony of two forensic experts, including a criminalist who testified that Spector was within three feet of the gun when it discharged.

The judge postponed a ruling on the admissibility of the testimony of Ogden and other women who alleged that Spector menaced them with weapons until Aug. 14 to allow prosecutors to file additional papers.

Spector, 67, attended the hearing with his wife and two bodyguards. He alleges that Clarkson, 40, killed herself in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion.

Jury selection is set for Oct. 2.


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