Ex-Spector Lawyer Could Face Jail Time For Refusing To Testify

Thursday, July 12th 2007, 6:27 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A former attorney for Phil Spector could face jail time if she refuses to testify at the music producer's murder trial about a possible piece of evidence allegedly withheld by a defense expert.

Sara Caplan was scheduled to appear in Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Filder's courtroom Thursday morning, a day after the California Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal of a contempt order for declining to tell jurors about possible removal of evidence.

Caplan was a member of an original defense team that examined the scene in Spector's home where actress Lana Clarkson died of a gunshot wound to the mouth on Feb. 3, 2003.

Her story about the possible evidence emerged unexpectedly in hearings outside the jury's presence. She said she saw famous forensic expert Henry Lee pick up a small white object the size of a fingernail at the scene and put it in a vial. Autopsy pictures of Clarkson show a small piece of acrylic fingernail missing from her right thumb.

Lee denied picking up such an item, but the judge found that Caplan was more credible and made a formal finding that Lee had removed something from the scene and never turned it over to the prosecution.

Caplan claimed attorney-client privilege in refusing to repeat her testimony to the jury, but the judge said the privilege did not apply.

Lee flew to China on a business trip Tuesday and told The Associated Press it was now unlikely he would testify in the trial.

``The bottom line is I did not take a fingernail,'' Lee said in a phone interview Tuesday. ``But they made it a smoke screen. A little thing became a big thing. What for?''

The decision by the California Supreme Court came as the defense continued to call to the stand witnesses who would support its theory that Clarkson shot herself.

Jennifer Hayes-Riedl, a friend of Clarkson, testified that the actress had hit bottom financially, professionally and personally in the weeks before she died.

``She was crying her eyes out,'' Hayes-Riedl said.

The witness said that during their friendship she had never seen the 40-year-old Clarkson so defeated. She said the last straw was Clarkson's decision to take a $9-an-hour job as a hostess at the House of Blues, a job she found humiliating.

``She was out of her mind depressed,'' said Hayes-Riedl. ``She was crying as if she'd had it.''

When prosecutor Pat Dixon asked if it was true Clarkson never gave up hope, Hayes-Riedl said, ``I totally disagree with you.... She had a game face and she thought she could get parts. But she was very, very depressed.''

Hayes-Riedl also told the jury that Clarkson knew how to handle guns.

``She worked on some movies where she had to use weapons and I know she had weapons training,'' Hayes-Riedl said. ``I'm sure she used to go shooting at the Beverly Hills Gun Club.''

Spector, 67, rose to fame in the 1960s with a recording technique known as the ``Wall of Sound.'' Clarkson was best known for her starring role in ``Barbarian Queen.'' Clarkson was shot after going home with Spector after the pair met at the House of Blues.