Spector Refresher – Opening Statements and Admissions
Posted by thedarwinexception on August 3, 2008
Opening week in Spector round one was taken up not only by opening arguments, but also by the whole “Caplan Issue”. One hopes that this whole “mini trial” won’t need to be re-litigated again in Spector round 2. Which should help to speed along the whole running time. Many an afternoon in Round 1 was filled with a long list of former Spector supporters testifying about the “little white object” that supposedly was the key to the whole case.
Not that there weren’t other “side trials” during Spector 1, what with BabyDoll Gibson, Michael Bay and the whole “Lana e-mail’s and evidence belonging to her estate”, but the “little white object” was the one that took up the most time – and cost Henry Lee a great deal of credibility.
But we did manage to get in opening arguments during the first week – and it was our first glimpse into exactly what the state would be arguing and what the defense’s theory of the case would be – not that they would actually *have* a solid, non changing theory.
Alan Jackson, lead prosecutor for the state, “cut the defense to the knees” by not bringing in Spector’s own statements during his opening argument. Spector had made several statements after the shooting – mostly self serving statements like “It was an accident”, and “I didn’t mean to shoot her. It was an accident. I have an explanation for this.” and “The gun went off accidentally. She works at the House of Blues. It was a mistake.”
Spector changed his story at the stationhouse, after he had time to reflect on the situation at hand. Then he started babbling that Clarkson only “pretended to work” at the House of Blues; that Clarkson was “a piece of shit” and that Clarkson “certainly had no right to come to my fucking castle, blow her fucking head open.”
Good stuff for *both* sides – the self serving “she blew her fucking head open” statements for the defense and the “she was a piece of shit” statements for the prosecution.
But the defense didn’t want the statements to come in at all – and there was vigorous pre trial motions from both sides. The prosecution wanted the jury to hear the statements – all of them, including the “It was an accident” statements, which seemed to imply that Spector had the gun in his hand at some point and was at least admitting that Clarkson didn’t shoot herself voluntarily. Bad stuff for the defense, who were preparing to argue that Lana was depressed and that Spector wasn’t even in the vicinity when she found the gun and shot herself.
The judge ultimately ruled that the statements could be admitted by the prosecution, and based on this ruling, Bruce Cutler, Spector’s lead defense attorney, prepared an opening statement and a defense which relied on spinning those statements to his client’s best advantage. And probably heavily slanted towards the “See, he said it was an accident” line.
But Alan Jackson decided not to even *mention* the statements in opening arguments, a strategy that Cutler found devastating to not only his opening statement, but his entire defense, he told Judge Fidler.
Under California law, statements suspects give to law enforcement are *only* admissible by the prosecution. They are considered “hearsay” if the defense admits them, and that is not allowed. So now Cutler was faced with an opening statement that was wholly un presentable and a case that he needed to entirely overhaul.
So, now we have our first strategy question for Round 2:
Should the prosecution again NOT admit the self serving statements and the admissions that “It was an accident” made by Spector the night of the shooting? Or should they allow the jury to hear these statements and allow the defense the luxury of having the jury consider just that – that it was not a premeditated homicide, but maybe an accident that rises only to the level of voluntary manslaughter?
Who does this testimony help – and why? Who does it hurt – and why?
Should it be considered in Round 2?
RELATED READING: Transcript of Phil Spector’s stationhouse statement to police