The Spector of Celebrity Trial

September 11, 2007 Los Angeles Times

In his closing argument last week in the murder trial of pop music legend Phil Spector, prosecutor Alan Jackson encouraged jurors to ignore the experts who testified for the defense because, he said, “if you hire enough lawyers who hire enough experts who are paid enough money, you can get them to say anything.” He went on to inform the jury that “Phil Spector thinks if he throws enough money at a problem, he can solve the problem.”

It was a highly unprofessional argument that encouraged jurors to dismiss the opinions of any experts who appear on behalf of wealthy defendants as, in effect, purchased testimony. Yet the fact is that such witnesses are not only available to the rich; even a public defender is allowed to call such witnesses, at public expense, who would probably have made the same arguments.

There is no question that there are some experts in both civil and criminal trials whose opinions invariably follow the direction of their clients. Moreover, it was fair game for the Spector prosecutors to challenge the objectivity of forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who just happens to be married to Spector’s trial counsel, Linda Kenney Baden. It was breathtakingly bad judgment to call a relative to the stand as an expert, and the prosecution scored points on the issue, particularly after Michael Baden said he could not define a “conflict of interest” and prosecutors asked if he would end up “sleeping on the couch” if his testimony did not favor Spector’s case.

Still, Jackson’s effort to persuade the jury to disregard the defense experts as presumptively tainted was deeply inappropriate and should have resulted in a judicial rebuke in open court.

What is particularly galling about this line of argument is that it should come from a prosecutor after a litany of scandals over the years involving discredited government experts. It is prosecutors who often hire experts to testify that any babbling or barking defendant is demonstrably sane, and experts who will claim to find a virtual portrait of a defendant in blood spatters. These “hired guns” make small fortunes working for the government.

They are so predictable that they are given such nicknames as “Dr. Death” — the nom de guerre of James Grigson, a psychiatrist who helped prosecutors secure 115 death sentences in 124 capital cases.

Or Fred Zain, one of the most prolific government experts. The former chief of the West Virginia crime lab and the San Antonio medical examiner’s office, Zain testified in countless trials and always seemed to find incriminating forensic evidence. Zain was undone by an investigation into the case of Glen Woodall, who was sentenced to two life terms plus 300 years for two rapes. He was tied to the rapes by Zain’s analysis of blood and hair samples. Years later, it was shown that Woodall was innocent, and an investigation into Zain’s testimony found a long history of false conclusions and deceitful practices. In 1992, a court concluded that he may have fabricated and misrepresented evidence in almost 150 cases of conviction.

Then there is Johnny St. Valentine Brown Jr., who was credited with testifying in roughly 4,000 trials in 14 states despite the fact that prosecutors never checked into his background to see that he had lied about his credentials.

A special prosecutor investigated leading prosecution expert Ralph Erdmann, who was found to have falsely testified in a number of Texas death penalty cases.

The investigation concluded that “if the prosecution theory was that death was caused by a Martian death ray, then that was what Dr. Erdmann reported.”

In the case of Louise Robbins, a North Carolina anthropologist turned prosecution witness, prosecutors found an “expert” willing to match boot prints to individuals with virtual certainty. Despite the lack of scientific basis for her claims, Robbins made a lucrative career as a prosecution witness.

John Sam, a detective in the infamous case of Rolando Cruz (who was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death), explained how prosecutors would shop for experts:

“The first lab guy says, ‘It’s not the boot.’ We don’t like that answer, so there’s no paper. We go to a second guy who used to do our lab. He says yes. So we write the report on Mr. Yes. Then Louise Robbins arrives. This is the boot, she says. That’ll be $10,000. So now we have evidence.”

The list of debunked and discredited prosecution witnesses stretches across the country. Indeed, in a study of 200 exoneration cases involving DNA (including death row cases), more than 25% involved flawed forensic testimony from prosecution witnesses.

Obviously, criminal defendants also have retained unscrupulous experts — and when it happens, these experts should be attacked based on their backgrounds and on their opinions. What lawyers should not do is what Jackson did — encourage jurors to dismiss any defense experts at all as sold-out stooges. It is the weight of the evidence, not the wealth of the defendant, that should be the sole consideration of a jury.

The great irony is that Jackson and his colleagues had little need to engage in cheap tactics. The case against Spector is overwhelming, and even though he hasn’t testified, he has supplied the jury with one of the most creepy appearances and lifestyles in recent memory.

Yet this was not enough for the prosecutors, who sought to prove the guilt of the defendant by pandering to the prejudices of the jury against wealthy defendants.

3 thoughts on “The Spector of Celebrity Trial”

  1. Let me give you another fact professor. The government has huge resources. They also have experts who will lie, fabricate, distort, twist, and sabotage a trial. In fact, they have more motive to do so – they are all employees of the same entity. The fact that you did not point that out is shocking.

    Kelley Lynch

  2. Mr. Turley,

    My life has been destroyed over this situation – that is inextricably intertwined with Leonard Cohen, his tax fraud that I reported, and the Phil Spector matter. Cohen appears in the Motion in Limine. Mick Brown/UK Telegraph personally wrote me and told me he had the transcripts of the grand jury testimony. He said Leonard Cohen testified against Phil Spector in that grand jury. The Motion in Limine seems to support that position but I have not seen the grand jury testimony and clearly could not swear to that. I met the detectives that rolled by to interview Cohen. His comments about Phil Spector came back to hauunt him. Detectives called my office and I spoke to them. Cohen did not want to meet with them and did not want to be involved. Ultimately, he agreed to meet them and I asked someone I knew (Steve Cron) to be present for the interview. I explained to Steve Cron (at Cohen’s house with Cohen present) that I did not want to be dragged into the Phil Spector matter. Mr. Spector and I were friends for years and I worked with him. Cohen heard this. After the interview, Cohen asked me to come over to his house. I did. He explained that he told the detectives his comments to the news media, over the years, about Phil Spector were “good rock ‘n roll comments.” He said they were surprised when they found out the comments were 30 years old. This is precisely what I heard for approximately 20 years. I never once heard, from Cohen, that Phil held a gun on him. Not once. I heard that he did not like his vocals and felt humiliated when he was forced to telegram Mr. Spector in an attempt to have him finish the album. Mr. Spector told me he found working with Cohen depressing (that is not a joke; it is depressing working with this man – he is an unconscionable and insufferable control freak and ego-maniac and that is my personal opinion and experience; he is also vindictive, vengeful, and hateful). Mr. Spector also told me he received hate mail from all 8 of Cohen’s fans. I believe Marty Machat, a man I also worked for who represented both of them asked Mr. Spector to finish the album.

    What explains Cohen’s appearance in the prosecutor’s Motion in Limine? Are you telling me that they did not have access to the detectives and the detectives reports and notes? I do not believe that. Whoever says that is a bald-faced liar. These pepole (Cooley and Gang) refuse to say what they spent on the conviction. They don’t keep track of that. It insults one’s intelligence. This is a sport in Los Angeles and Bill Pavelic has made allegations that LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide United retaliated against him, Dr. Lee, and Dr. Michael Baden. Every expert witness was targeted, by Alan Jackson, and others. If you think Jackson’s attack on the lawyers was bad – how about on the forensic scientists. Yes, it’s unprofessional – he basically, with his colleagues, accused Mr. Spector’s “team” of extortion, bribery, etc. This goes at the very fabric of our justice system. Have you seen Dr. Lee’s email to the Los Angeles Times? The attack on the scientists absolutely left the defense vulnerable and it permitted the prosecution to run with the gossip, malicious lies, distortion, and to weave their web of deceit. The assault by cyber-terrorists on the internet may be unprecedented. A young woman, in the UK, forwarded me emails she received “criminally impersonating” Bruce Cutler. I asked the DOJ to investigate that. She also received a death threat. I asked for an investigation into that and wrote the DOJ and Interpol. Why? Because she dared to say Phil Spector was innocent and put a Petition on-line. The conduct on the internet is coordinated and it is despicable, vulgar, malicious, unconscionable, outrageous, and – probably – criminal as it relates to juror tampering and witness tampering, intimidation, etc.

    Dr. James Pex was read his rights on the stand. It appears that Larry Fidler threw two trials for the prosecution. The case against Spector is not over-whelming. It’s probably not legal either – the prior bad acts. The judge himself said it was a dangerous legal path. The judge’s jury instructions that were issued, revised, and revoked changed the minds of the jurors. Their minds were not changed back. No one – and that includes you because it would be “speculative” – will ever know the actual outcome of that trial without the instructions. Ever. There were issues raised about jurors possibly being on the internet. Diane Ogden, a witness, died of a drug overdose and while her testimony was apparently used in the second trial she was not present to be cross-examined. Baby Doll Gibson, a Madam, went into court. She apparently intended to testify that Clarkson was a prostitute that played with guns. The judge would only permit her to testify if Mr. Spector took the stand. That is an outrageous 5th Amendment violation and an attempt to extort Mr. Spector’s testimony. She was a key witness. The judge thought she was there to “dirty” up Lana Clarkson. How does someone else dirty up a human being if the facts are truthful?

    Is it only ordinary citizens that understand Phil Spector was set up? Why is that? Why do only ordinary citizens understand that some District Attorney’s will use their offices as stepping stones to political careers, fancy private practices, etc? This is not a secret – particularly in Los Angeles where celebrity trials have now become “sport.”

    Five expert witnessed would not take the stand and lie for Phil Spector. That is preposterous. They concluded Clarkson shot herself. That is precisely what Mr. Spector told me when he and I had dinner after that suicide. Phil Spector told me (because I asked the “source” and know him): Clarkson, who had mixed alcohol and vicodin, was dancing around in his foyer, singing Da Doo Run Run, before she shot herself.

    The driver had motive to lie. He has changed his story eight times apparently. He has, according to the defense, perjured himself four times in Immigration documents. Why wasn’t he deported? The District Attorney’s office wrote Immigration about DeSouza. He did not call 911 first. He did not say Phil Spector said he killed someone. Read the 911 transcript. He said “he,” the driver, thought Mr. Spector killed someone and he said he thought the body was in a place where it was not. An investigator/former Chicago Police officer concluded this – Alhambra PD screwed up, tasered Mr. Spector numerous times, and that’s where the set up began.

    The District Attorney’s office has an internal memo regarding Killer King, the disgrace hospital in Los Angeles that the federal government shut down. In that memo, a Deputy District Attorney raises extremely serious questions about Luis Pena’s credibility and appears to take the position that he will lie for his job, cover up for his boss, and knows his position is political. The man took the stand and ultimately said he could not discount suicide. Why wasn’t a forensic autopsy undertaken? The woman had vicodin and alcohol in her system? Why has she been glamorized?

    Better yet – why am I doing your job for you? This situation is unconscionable. Many many people have been targeted and destroyed here. My children have actually been targeted – because I was dragged into the garbage deranged insanity known as the Phil Spector Set Up. I have asked the IRS, DOJ, FBI, Treaury, DEA, Immigration, and others to investigate this. They are now being insulted on the internet. Agent Kelly Sopko/Treasury is being called my “pet” federal agent. That is a lie. I reported egregious tax fraud. I was told Cohen committed criminal tax fraud. The penalties and interest as of 2004 were apparently in the vicinity of $30 million. I have been documenting what has ensued, since 2005, solely because I reported criminal tax fraud. My emails to the IRS Commissioner’s Staff, the Department of Justice, the FBI, Agent Sopko-the Treasury, Doron Weinberg, Dennis Riordan – and others – are being referred to as “spam” on the world-wide web. Apparently Alan Jackson himself believes they are spam. They are not spam. I was held hostage by a SWAT team on May 25, 2005. I was dragged to Killer King and questioned about Phil Spector. The entire file is falsified. A custody matter was coordinated.

    Boies Schiller figured this out: someone in Los Angeles will take the fall for what happened to me. I hope it’s Steve Cooley.

    Kelley Lynch

    P.S. Five experts witnesses would not lie on the stand and destroy their careers for Phil Spector. Clarkson shot herself. Diane Ogden died of a drug overdose and I read a posting by her son (Sean Ogden) about this “fucking trial” that was devastating. The DEA should investigate these drug related deaths – they’re connected to a high-profile celebrity. His name is Phil Spector. He is innocent and sitting in prison.

    P.P.S. These lawyers and experts are an integral part of our justice system. Innocent people or people charged with serious crimes rely on them to defend them. That is their constitutional right. What has happened to Mr. Spector’s team is unconscionable. I hope every single member of that team sues the District Attorney of Los Angeles. That may be one way to put an end to this type of insanity. It’s not “highly unprofessional.” From what I can tell – it is criminal.

  3. Professor:

    I have been following this trial and I found something in today’s news curious.

    The judge originally gave the jury an instruction: “If you do not find the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed that act, you must return a verdict of not guilty.”

    Then the jury announced they were deadlocked. Then the judge was going to allow the jury to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter. He decided against that. Now the judge is revoking the above instruction.

    Isn’t this tantamount to telling the jury to look for a way to come to a guilty verdict?

    Is it common for a judge to revoke an instruction in which the jury has been deliberating under for such a long time, thereby making it easier for a guilty verdict to be issued?

    I found it all very tilted toward the prosecution’s favor.

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