Five volumes of transcripts of grand jury testimony leading to reclusive producer Phil Spector’s indictment for murder on September 27th have been released after the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press won a legal battle to make them public. In November, a Los Angeles judge ruled that the transcripts’ release would not prevent Spector from receiving a fair trial, but the producer requested the release be blocked. This Wednesday, an appellate court lifted that stay.
Spector is soon to stand trial for the death of forty-year-old actress Lana Clarkson, who was found fatally shot in the face at his Alhambra estate near Los Angeles on February 3rd, 2003. Clarkson and Spector, now 64, had left the House of Blues, where she worked as a hostess, and driven together to his home in his Mercedes. The actress was found dead in Spector’s foyer, and the .38-caliber Colt revolver used to shoot her was found on the scene. Spector was arrested, but freed the next day on $1 million bail.
Included in the newly released documents are testimonies from several women stating that Spector had threatened them with a gun. A woman named Deborah Strand testified that she had seen a man she later learned was the producer at a Beverly Hills holiday party in 1999 flicking cigar ash on her boyfriend’s dog. When, offended, she asked him to leave, Spector allegedly put a gun to her cheek, saying, “What are you going to say now?” Spector’s bodyguard helped walk him off the premises.
Two women who had dated Spector in the Nineties also testified that he had been abusive. Dorothy Tiano Melvin, then Joan Rivers’ manager, stated that at his home after July 4th weekend in 1993, Spector had pointed a gun at her and demanded she undress. She refused, and he struck her, accusing her of “searching” the house. He then allegedly aimed a shotgun at her as she ran for the front gates of the house.
A photographer named Stephanie Elizabeth Jennings stated that Spector had invited her to his room at New York’s Carlyle Hotel after she had accompanied him to the 1995 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction after-party. When she declined, he allegedly stood blocking the door to Jennings’ hotel room with a gun before finally leaving. (In her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby, Ronnie Spector — Phil’s ex-wife and former lead singer of Sixties girl group the Ronettes — claimed that he often prevented her from leaving their house.)
The transcripts also state that Spector had originally told police that he’d shot Clarkson accidentally. Alhambra officer Beatrice Rodriguez testified that, upon the arrival of police on the scene, the producer had said, “What’s wrong with you guys? What are you doing? I didn’t mean to shoot her. It was an accident.” In previously revealed testimony by Adriano Desouza, the producer’s chauffeur who had placed the 5 a.m. emergency call, the driver states that he saw Spector walk out of the mansion with the gun in his hand and say, “I think I just shot her.” Prosecutors claim that investigators discovered the actress’ blood and gunshot residue on Spector’s clothing, and that he attempted to clean the weapon.
In a 2003 interview, however, Spector maintained that Clarkson had committed suicide. But friends of the actress who came before the grand jury described her as feeling positive about her future, with acquaintance Dianne Bennett stating that Clarkson had told her hours before her death that she was “finally ready to get married and have a family” and commented on her new house and “great new job.”
Spector is currently represented by Bruce Cutler, who represented organized crime head John Gotti. He faces a sentence of life without parole.