A convicted Hollywood madam has been subpoenaed to testify at the murder trial of Phil Spector, signaling a possible shift in tactics by the defense, which had promised not to “besmirch” slain actress Lana Clarkson.
Defense attorneys told the jury during opening statements last month that they planned to rely on forensics science to show that Clarkson shot herself four years ago in Spector’s Alhambra mansion. Bruce Cutler, Spector’s lead lawyer, said at the time, “I’m not casting aspersions, I wouldn’t do it. It’s not right.”
But plans to call Jody “Babydol” Gibson, who served 22 months in prison for running an international prostitution ring, suggest the defense is considering another direction. Gibson, in her memoir “Secrets of a Hollywood Super Madam,” wrote that she sent a tall, blond call girl named “Alana” to the Bel-Air Hotel to service a Texas politician. “Unfortunately, this gal would make headlines in the news years later after being found murdered in the home of a wealthy record producer,” Gibson said in the book.
USC law professor Jean Rosenbluth, who has been watching the trial, said Gibson could testify about things she discussed with Clarkson before her death, including the actress’ emotional state. But simply accusing her of working as a prostitute is unlikely to be deemed relevant, Rosenbluth said.
Dirtying up the victim is a timeworn, if risky, defense strategy, particularly when the victim is a woman. In the Robert Blake murder case, for example, the defense used allegations that the victim was a con woman to help win Blake’s acquittal, Rosenbluth said.
“Jurors are emotional people, more easily swayed by their sympathies than judges,” she said.
Gibson’s appearance is far from certain. Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler has not yet ruled whether she can testify, lawyers said.
Roger J. Rosen, one of Spector’s attorneys, said Gibson is on the witness list, but “we don’t know if we’re going to call her yet.” He declined to say what she might testify about.
District attorney’s office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said she could not yet say whether prosecutors would oppose letting her testify. Gibson declined to comment. Her attorney, Sammy Weiss, would not discuss what she might say in court. Roderick Lindblom, an attorney for Clarkson’s mother, Donna, also declined to comment.
Clarkson, 40, was found shot in the mouth Feb. 3, 2003, in the foyer of the music producer’s home. Spector, 67, has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1-million bail.
The statuesque blond had performed in such low-budget films as Roger Corman’s “Barbarian Queen” and did work in commercials and television, including episodes of “Silk Stalkings” and “Knight Rider.”
Clarkson met Spector the night of the shooting at the House of Blues in West Hollywood and agreed to accompany him home for a drink, prosecutors have said. Clarkson, her career on the wane, had taken a hostess job in the nightclub’s VIP room just three weeks before she was shot.
A call girl named “Alana” and “Lana Cl” is listed in Gibson’s “trick book” -- a collection of handwritten phone books and payment logs used as evidence in her 2000 trial and later unsealed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The Spector jury returns to court today to hear prosecution witnesses. Expected to testify is Stephanie Jennings, a photographer who said Spector threatened her with a gun in 1995.
Jurors were off Tuesday, as lawyers argued over evidence issues, including whether defense lawyers promptly turned over copies of photographs and witness statements to prosecutors, as required. Fidler said the defense did not act in a timely fashion, but said he would put off deciding on possible sanctions until he sees how important the evidence was.