Los Angeles – A judge ruled Wednesday that transcripts of grand jury hearings in the Phil Spector murder case should be made public, brushing aside vehement arguments by the defense that the documents are “full of lies.”
Judge Larry Paul Fidler said lawyers for the rock music producer failed to show how releasing the documents would prevent a fair jury from being chosen for the trial. The judge gave the defense 10 days to decide if they want to appeal. The documents would then be released if no appeal is filed.
Spector, 64, who created rock ‘n’ roll’s “wall of sound” recording technique, is charged with murdering B-movie actress Lana Clarkson in early 2003. He is free on $1 million bail.
Defense lawyer Bruce Cutler emotionally pleaded to keep the more than 1,000 pages of transcripts secret. At one point he held aloft the five-volume transcript and bellowed, “This is poison! That’s why the prosecution wants it out there. It’s full of lies.”
Prosecutor Douglas Sortino told the judge in calmer tones that an unbiased jury will be found even if the transcripts are released.
“We have the largest county in the entire United States,” he said. “We’ve had celebrity trials before. We’ve been able to get unbiased jurors before.”
In an unusual dispute, lawyers argued about just how famous Spector is and how that will affect his trial.
In a written brief, Sortino argued that Spector is not as famous as some celebrities who have faced trial in Los Angeles, including football star O.J. Simpson and actor Robert Blake
. He suggested younger jurors would not see Spector as a major star.
“Nearly all of the hit records he produced were made in the 1960s and 1970s. It is likely that most people who came of age after that period have no idea of who he is and no current interest in what he has done,” Sortino said.
Spector lawyer Roger Rosen argued that his client “is certainly an international star.”
“Whether he rises to the level of Mr. Blake or Mr. Simpson or (Michael) Jackson, he is an individual who is quite well recognized,” he said. Cutler added that Spector is “a musical icon all over the world.”
The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times both asked that the documents be released. The defense accused the organizations of seeking the transcripts only for commercial purposes.
“They will go out and sell their newspapers,” Rosen said. “But this will have an effect on Mr. Spector’s life.”
The judge interjected, “There already has been a great deal of publicity.”
Attorney Susan Seager, representing the Times and the AP, told the judge: “The press and the public have the right to attend court proceedings and the press provides oversight, making sure the proceedings are conducted fairly.”