The Darwin Exception

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CA vs. Spector – Caplan in Contempt, Spector Napping

Posted by thedarwinexception on June 14, 2007

Today Judge Fidler made good on his promise to hold Sara Caplan, Phil Spector’s former defense attorney and member of Robert Shapiro’s legal team, in contempt for refusing to testify in front of the jury as to exactly what she saw, or didn’t see, in Spector’s home. Caplan had testified outside the presence of the jury that she saw Dr. Henry Lee pick up a small white object and place it in a vial. This small object has been the subject of much controversy in the trial, and led to an opinion by Judge Fidler that the famed criminalist either withheld or destroyed this evidence.

The prosecution, arguing that this object, so well described by Caplan, had evidentiary value in and of itself, asked the court’s permission to enter the verbal description in their case in chief. Fidler ruled that they could do so, but Caplan, citing her ethical obligation to Spector, refused to testify in the prosecution’s case in chief, forcing Judge Fidler to tell her she would testify or be held in contempt.

Today, after reviewing the attorney’s briefs regarding the issue, ruled that he was not swayed from his earlier position, and that Caplan would have to testify against her former client in open court. Caplan tearfully refused the judge’s order, and he charged her with contempt, although he did refrain from sending her to jail, after she expressed concerns about how she will care for her child, giving her until the 27th  to allow the Court of Appeal to review the decision.

The judge takes pains to tell her that he is impressed by her commitment to her ideals, even as he disagrees with her interpretation of the law.

“You know well that I was a defense attorney for 10 years,” he tells her gently. “I know defense obligations very, very well.”


In other testimony – Jaime Lintemoot, a young criminalist for the LA coroner was on the stand. She testifies that her job entails going to crime scenes every day,
 scouring dead bodies for broken teeth, unusual fibers, and blood spatter. As she explains to the jury, her jurisdiction starts at the top of the deceased’s head and ends at his feet. Anything not on the body, she leaves to law enforcement.

Her work on the Clarkson case shows the range of her duties. At Spector’s mansion, she swabbed the actress’s hands for gunshot residue and collected blood samples from her wrists. She pulled a black tube of pink lipstick from Clarkson’s bra and wrapped her head in a sheet. At the coroner’s office, she cut off Clarkson’s jacket and dress off and removed her bra and underwear. She also testified that she had collected something white off of Clarkson’s dress – which she had originally written down as a possible fingernail.

Under cross examination by Linda Kenny Baden she testified that  she had done nothing wrong and had not compromised any evidence that she gathered. Baden focused on the procedures used to gather evidence during an acetate tape lift on Clarkson’s clothing, suggesting that the defense may have more in store for this particular piece of evidence. Baden  implied that the bloodstains on Clarkson’s dress may have been disturbed by the tape lift.

Kenney Baden asked whether Lintemoot might have compromised any of the evidence.

“I do not believe I compromised evidence,” the criminalist said.

Next up is Donna Brandelli, the fingerprint examiner. This is dry testimony, indeed, as she goes through each of the hundreds of fingerprints taken at the scene of the crime.

Dry enough, it seems, to put Phil Spector to sleep. The camera lingers on him napping at the defense table, his eyes closed and his head slumped forward. His lawyers don’t seem to notice perhaps because they are fighting off coma’s of their own. One of the lawyers is resting his cheek in his palm and his eyes are shut behind his glasses.

The most exciting part of Brandelli’s testimony  was the topic of her in-progress Ph.D. dissertation. It is an examination of the “‘CSI’ effect”, how the expectations of jurors concerning forensic evidence correspond to their TV viewing habits.

When Brandelli explains how she dusts for prints, she says to jurors, “I’m sure many of you have seen it on television.”

As she begins describing work she did on the gun in the case, Spector stirs awake.

For those who slept through it – the major points of Brandelli’s testimony were that there were no fingerprints on the .38 special. That could mean that someone wiped down the gun, but it could also mean that there never were any prints on the weapon. There’s a print on the bottom of Lana Clarkson’s shoe that doesn’t match her or Spector. Her prints are on the tequila bottle and the ginger ale bottle. Both of their prints are on the drinking glasses.

As always, court is dark tomorrow.

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