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CA vs. Spector – Minor Players and the Mini Trial

Posted by thedarwinexception on May 23, 2007

Poor Adriano DeSouza, on the stand for a fourth day, finally finishes up his testimony.

Court opened with prosecutors playing the rest of the videotape of DeSouza’s interview at the police station about 5 hours after the shooting of Lana Clarkson. Although it is apparent on the tape that DeSouza’s English has improved in the intervening years, it is also apparent that he understood the detectives and was able to answer their questions and understand the situation.

One interesting tidbit from the tape was the fear DeSouza felt and his nervousness about becoming entangled in the case.

“You think I’m in danger because this guy is, is too rich?” Adriano DeSouza asked during the interview.

Paul Fournier, the detective conducting the interview,  told him he doubted he was in any real danger, but warned him, “This is going to be a high-profile case, no doubt about it.”

“Oh my God,” DeSouza replied.

In the interview, DeSouza also said that when he asked Spector what had happened after Spector emerged from the house saying “I think I shot somebody”, Spector responded with “a stupid face.”

Fournier asked if he meant an expression meaning “I don’t know,” and the driver agreed.

On the videotape Fournier continuously asked De Souza whether he was sure about what he heard, and whether those were Spector’s exact words.

“I think so,” De Souza answered hesitantly. “I think so. I’m not sure. It’s my English.”

When defense attorney Bradley Brunon questioned him again about whether he may have misheard Spector, using this portion of the tape to bolster his claim that DeSouza was lacking in language skills,  De Souza testified that he felt Fournier was having trouble understanding him because of his heavily accented and slightly broken English, and that’s why Fournier kept asking him to repeat Spector’s alleged confession.

“I told him that because I thought he does not understand what I said,” De Souza said.

DeSouza also says on the tape that the reason he didn’t call the police right away was because he “didn’t know how to talk to the police.” He has since testified that the reason he called Spector’s manager before calling police was because he didn’t know the address of the house and hoped to get it from her. 

To hammer his point home, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson again asked De Souza about the validity of his testimony before allowing him to finally leave the witness stand.

“Did you come here to tell the truth?” Jackson asked.

“Yes,” De Souza answered.

“Are you telling the truth?”


“Are you mistaken about what you heard Mr. Spector say?”


“Are you sure about that?”


And then De Souza was free to go, after spending four days on the stand. Not far, however, because his immigration status is still up in the air – a fact that the defense used to suggest De Souza was testifying in exchange for the D.A.’s help with his residency status.

With DeSouza finished, we then heard from some very minor players in the story. But they are “minor” with design by the prosecution.

Alhambra police officer Sean Heckers testified about swabbing Spector’s hands for gun residue  and Alhambra paramedic Michael Brown testified about examining Spector for injuries, since an officer shot him with a tazer gun at the time of his arrest.

While Heckers testified that a small bit of residue was found on Spector, defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden suggested that the residue may have come from the police station where Spector was booked or the squad car where he sat down.

Heckers, who admitted that it was his first time performing such a test in the field, said that guns are not allowed in any Alhambra police station and that the squad cars are routinely cleaned, inside and out.

Brown, who testified that he checked Spector over for bruises and didn’t find any, also said that Spector didn’t receive any special treatment once he was at the police station. Brown also said that Spector didn’t appear drunk. “I did not find obvious signs of alcohol,” Brown said.

Near the end of his brief appearance on the witness stand, Brown is also asked what he knew about the shooting investigation when he examined Spector in the Alhambra police station.  Absolutely nothing, he replies. “I had no prior knowledge of anything going on,” he admits.

Heckers, who proceeded him, similarly testified that he had no idea what was going on when he was ordered to drive Spector from his mansion to the stationhouse.

So why is the jury hearing from these out of the loop,  peripheral witnesses instead of the officers who first arrived at Spector’s mansion or the detectives and policemen who actually ran the scene?

By prosecutorial design.

This is all part of a carefully designed trial strategy by the prosecution to control which of Spector’s statements the jury hears. The prosecutors “sabotaged” the defense a month ago when they announced on the day of opening statements that they did not plan to use as evidence a single word of Spector’s voluminous statements to police. Instead, they would rely on his alleged confession to the chauffeur: “I think I killed somebody.”

It was an astonishing decision because the DA’s office had fought like mad in pretrial hearings for permission to introduce these bizarre statements by Spector, which include vigorous denials of guilt along with profane attacks on the victim’s character and an account of a suicide by Clarkson that is at odds with the evidence. (He indicates she shot herself in the temple standing up. She died in a chair from a shot inside the mouth.) The defense had shaped its strategy around these statements. Now, they were prohibited from using them at all, prompting Bruce Cutler, at the end of the prosecution’s opening remarks to ask the judge for a recess and telling the judge that his defense was “cut off
at the knees”.

So, we have these witnesses who never spoke to Spector, didn’t know what was going on, but introducing the few facts the prosecution needs introduced – without the chance of them mentioning Spector’s words, which could open the door to all of his statements, essentially wrecking their strategy.

So, we hear from Heckers and paramedic Brown.  Heckers testifies that he arrived at The Castle just before 6 a.m. and was almost immediately told by a supervisor to drive Spector, who is already in the back of a police car, to the station. Then paramedic Brown testifies he is called to the station at 6:17 a.m. to provide medical attention to Spector, who he is told has been Tasered into submission by arresting officers.

Neither of these guys have long talks with Spector or write important reports or interview other witnesses, but with their short stints in the witness chair, jurors find out what happened after the chauffeur called 911. The police came; Spector behaved badly and had to be Tasered. They arrested him.

For prosecutors, it’s mission accomplished without the risk of putting a witness on the stand who had extensive conversations with Spector and who might spill the beans

We also hear from a 911 supervisor, who testifies that a call from DeSouza’s cell phone was the only request for help at Spector’s estate the night of the shooting. Prosecutors have said Spector spent 40 minutes alone in the house before police arrived and could have called for assistance from any of the many phones in the 33-room mansion.

Sandra Hill, a supervisor for the California Highway Patrol’s emergency dispatch center, says a records search shows there was only one call for help from the Alhambra estate on Feb. 3, 2003, and it came from Adriano DeSouza’s cell phone. In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson said Spector was in the house alone for 40 minutes before police entered. “Forty minutes to call for help,” the prosecutor observed.

Defense attorney Bruce Cutler countered that whether Spector had “14 or 1400 phones,” the only thing that mattered was where he was at the time of the shooting.

There is no court today or tomorrow for the holiday weekend, and yesterday afternoon was devoted to the “evidentiary hearings” involving the “tooth or fingernail” and Dr. Henry Lee. Sarah Kaplan again takes the stand to refute Lee’s testimony that she made an “honest mistake” and that she confused his swabs and vials and didn’t know what she was talking about.

The judge rules on this issue after her testimony and arguments from both sides. The Prosecution wants Fidler to instruct the jury that the defense withheld evidence and that this should cast doubt in the juries mind regarding the crime scene and witnesses testifying concerning it. The defense counters that since the prosecution doesn’t know *what* was found if anything, that the judge certainly can’t draw inferences that such a piece of evidence would hurt the prosecution’s case in any way – the prosecution has a responsibility to show that the defense substantially harmed their case, and without knowledge of the what the item even is, that burden can’t be met.

Judge Fidler rules that Caplan is “credible”, that he questions Lee’s testimony, and that he does believe Lee hid or destroyed evidence in the case, In his ruling, Fidler indicated that he believed Lee had lied under oath. He specifically cited the conflict between Lee’s testimony that he had never collected the item in question and the account of  Caplan, who said she saw him place such an object in a clear vial.

The judge acknowledged that Lee was a “world-renowned expert,” but said he found Caplan “very credible.”

“If I have to choose between the two, I am going to choose Ms. Caplan, who is more credible than Dr. Lee,” he said, adding, “Dr. Lee has a lot to lose if this turns out to be true.”

Fidler also said that although this is his finding, he certainly won’t tell the jury this, as it would be a finding of fact from him, which would be inappropriate. He says that if Dr. Henry Lee testifies for the defense in front of the jury, that the prosecution will then have the opportunity to discredit whatever Lee says by bringing on the same witnesses and opening the same issues in front of the jury. In other words, the prosecution will have the opportunity to present a “trial within the trial”, with the mini trial focusing on the credibility and reliability of Dr. Henry Lee.

It is still uncertain whether the defense will expose Dr. Henry Lee to this scrutiny. Lee opined during the testimony given before the judge that his reputation had been severely damaged by the allegations made towards him, and one wonders if he is going to be open to having a mini trial conducted focusing on these allegations.

One wonders if the defense will employ the same strategy as the prosecution, and instead call some of Lee’s minions to testify about blood spatter and crime scene reconstruction, thus avoiding questions about other evidence that may have been found at the scene by Lee.

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