Pop superstar Madonna, declaring herself sick at being in the same room with the man accused of stalking and threatening to kill her, reluctantly came to court Wednesday and testified that she was terrified of him and still has nightmares about him attacking her.
Dressed conservatively and at times looking grim, Madonna testified for 90 minutes in the courtroom of Judge Jacqueline A. Connor, who had banned television cameras and news photographers.
Only twice did the entertainer glance briefly at the defendant, Robert Dewey Hoskins, as he sat slumped in his seat rarely looking at her.
Asked by Deputy Dist. Atty. Rhonda Saunders how she felt, Madonna replied:
"Sick to my stomach. . . . I feel incredibly disturbed that the man who repeatedly threatened my life is sitting across the room from me. I feel we are making his fantasies come true."
That was the last-ditch argument her lawyer had used earlier in the day in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Connor to remove Hoskins from the courtroom while Madonna was on the witness stand.
Connor refused to do that, saying that such a move could prejudice the jury against Hoskins, making the jurors believe that he was dangerous when they are required, at this point in the trial, to presume him innocent.
Saunders and Hoskins' lawyer, Deputy Public Defender E. John Myers, had opposed the request on the grounds that Hoskins has a constitutional right to face his accuser. Saunders said she did not want to provide Hoskins with grounds for an appeal if he is convicted.
Hoskins, who was shot and wounded by Madonna's bodyguard at her Hollywood Hills estate in May, is charged with one count of stalking the entertainer, one count of making a terrorist threat against her, one count each of making terrorist threats against her bodyguard and her secretary, and one count of assaulting the bodyguard.
In his opening statement, Myers contended that his client had been overcharged, saying "the evidence will be completely lacking" on the stalking charges. Myers portrayed Hoskins as "essentially a homeless guy who poses no threat to Madonna or anyone else." Hoskins could be sentenced to a 10-year term if convicted.
His trial was supposed to start last month, but was delayed when Madonna ignored a subpoena to appear in court to testify, saying she was sick and had to go to Argentina to film the movie "Evita."
At that time, Judge Andrew Kauffman issued an order requiring her to be in court Jan. 2, or face being jailed on $5-million bail.
Madonna was given a one-day reprieve while jurors were being selected.
She arrived at the courthouse Wednesday afternoon under tight security in a large black luxury car with tinted windows. She could be seen inside wearing dark glasses as the car was driven into an underground garage that is also used to bring prisoners into the building.
Reporters were brought into the courtroom before Madonna was led in by a contingent of armed bailiffs and bodyguards.
Wearing a calf-length charcoal sweater suit with spiked heels and simple jewelry and with her hair in a French twist, the entertainer at first appeared nervous on the witness stand.
But by the time Myers cross-examined her, she had become testy and outspoken.
When Myers asked her how tall her bodyguard is, she responded, "How tall are you?"
At another point when he tried to elicit what she told a Los Angeles police detective when he tried to serve her with a subpoena, her response was acidic.
"Don't try to put words in my mouth," she snapped.
When recounting the incidents that led to Hoskins' arrest, however, she often took long pauses and closed her eyes as she testified.
He first came to her estate April 7 when she was not at home, she said, gaining access to the property by climbing a high wall that surrounds it.
He was chased off, Madonna testified, by her bodyguard Basil Stephens, who was inside the house and alerted to the intruder by her security system.
The next day, she said, while she was out bicycling with her trainer, Hoskins returned and through the intercom outside her gate told her secretary, Caresse Henry, he would "slice my throat from ear to ear" and kill everybody in her house if he were not allowed to see Madonna.
While he was there, the entertainer said, she cycled up to her gate and passed within feet of Hoskins, who she said was filthy with disarranged hair.
"He had a really crazy look in his eyes and he was staring at me in a very strange way," she said. "I said something like, 'It looks like the freaks are out today.'
"I said it in a half-joking manner, but I was actually very disturbed about the look in his eye."
The entertainer identified a note written on a religious pamphlet that she said Hoskins had left at her gate. The pamphlet has the word "defiled" printed in large type across the top, and words Saunders said were written by Hoskins scrawled all over it, such as, "I love you. You will be my wife for keeps" and "kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss."
Madonna said she was frightened by the note because "it's irrational. It's not based on reality."
"The person who wrote it was very sick," she added.
On the night of May 29, Madonna said, she was in Miami when Hoskins returned to her estate.
Saunders told the jurors that Hoskins crawled along the wall to the top of a carport from which he entered a pool area.
It was there, she told the jury, that Stephens confronted the intruder and shot him after he lunged at the bodyguard, tried to strangle him and take his gun.
Madonna said she had a dream about someone breaking into her house and trying to shoot her the night before. The nightmares have continued, she said, the last having occurred three weeks ago while she was in London.
She was so frightened by the incident that she immediately put her house up for sale, Madonna testified. The house is still on the market.
In his questioning, Myers tried to get the entertainer to acknowledge that she is "tough" and "strong" in an apparent effort to minimize her fear, but Connor ruled that such inquiry was irrelevant.
At the end of her testimony, Madonna was led from the courtroom by deputies and bodyguards into a private corridor as startled bystanders watched. The case is expected to go to the jury in four to five days.
Outside the glare of media coverage, legal experts said that Wednesday's proceedings illuminated important issues under discussion within the criminal justice system--the presence of cameras in the courtroom in the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the necessity of witnesses testifying.
"It used to be that if you, as a judge, decided to keep television out of your courtroom, you were on your own facing the pack of high-priced lawyers the media rolls in on one of these things," said one senior Superior Court judge who asked not to be identified. "Nowadays, the word has quietly come down from the presiding judges that if you decide to exclude TV, you have the support of the court administration.
"I don't think you'll see another televised criminal trial in Los Angeles County any time soon," the judge added.
But former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Robert Philibosian speculated that considerations other than court efficiency dictated Connor's decisions to exclude the cameras and to compel the singer to testify in person.
"I'm guessing that Judge Connor excluded the cameras because this is a stalking-style of case involving a high-profile celebrity," Philibosian said. "As the victim of that sort of crime, Madonna is entitled to some sort of privacy when she testifies. But the defendant has an absolute right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him."
Philibosian's sentiments were shared by leading lawyers across the California legal spectrum.
San Diego prosecutor Donald J. MacNeill, one of the leading theorists in the state's politically potent victims rights movement, argued that if Madonna had been permitted to testify via video or outside Hoskins' presence, "then no victim would be willing to come to court and testify in the future."
"It's no more uncomfortable for her to take the stand than it is for the thousands of more obscure women--many of whom have suffered things far worse," he said.
Former Los Angeles County Bar Assn. President Gerald L. Chaleff, a defense attorney, concurred. "If you want the law to work, if you want to live under its protection, you have to come to court and testify," he said.
Still other legal experts expressed amusement over the sudden reticence of a pop celebrity who has amassed a fortune on the strength of her unbridled exhibitionism.
"Madonna being too shy to come to court is sort of like Ollie North taking the Fifth," said Santa Monica defense attorney Gigi Gordon. "Judge Connor correctly decided that there's no exception in the Constitution for movie stars."
Times staff writer Tim Rutten contributed to this story.