LOS ANGELES – A woman who said Lana Clarkson was her best friend for 20 years testified Thursday at Phil Spector's murder trial, refuting testimony by another witness that Clarkson was depressed around the time of her death in the music producer's home.
Nili Hudson, called as a prosecution rebuttal witness, produced a letter written by Punkin Pie Laughlin a year after Clarkson died. In it, Laughlin told friends: 'My Lana, my best friend, my sister, my right arm, was violently taken from me at the hands of Phil Spector."
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler admitted the letter into evidence over objections from the defense. He told jurors it was being offered to show inconsistency in Laughlin's witness stand claim that she would not have said Spector should "fry" for Clarkson's death because "I don't believe that."
Hudson said the letter came with a December 2003 Christmas card from Laughlin and was a multiple mailing.
Spector, 67, is accused of murdering Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003, within hours of going home with him from her job at a nightclub where they had just met. The defense claims Clarkson, 40, was despondent about fading career prospects in acting and pulled the trigger on the gun that went off in her mouth.
During her testimony, Hudson downplayed Laughlin's friendship with Clarkson and contradicted her, saying Clarkson was upbeat and optimistic about her career in the months before she died, and was "proud" of having taken a job as a hostess at the House of Blues.
Laughlin had testified that Clarkson was depressed and humiliated by having to take the $9-an-hour job.
On cross-examination by attorney Bradley Brunon, Hudson acknowledged having watched some of the trial on TV, including Laughlin's testimony, and that she believes Spector is guilty. But she said this didn't interfere with her telling the truth.
Hudson conceded that Clarkson was unable to pay her rent, had to "set her ego aside" when she took the House of Blues job, and that Clarkson "was very frustrated, struggling and somewhat depressed." But she insisted her friend was bouncing back.
Prosecutor Pat Dixon had Hudson read from a letter Clarkson wrote to a former boyfriend, declaring: "I have a major career that is about to bust wide open. ... I've got some serious red carpets to walk down. I'm going to Broadway."
The testimony came hours after Fidler rejected an emotional plea from Spector to delay the proceedings for a day because one of his key lawyers had fallen ill.
"I feel completely naked and lost without her," the music producer told the judge.
Attorney Linda Kenney-Baden, a forensic legal expert who has questioned many witnesses and made one of the opening statements, has been visibly in pain this week and had to be helped out of court Wednesday.
Fidler said she wasn't needed for Thursday's witnesses and ordered the case to proceed, which it did with testimony from a Hollywood agent and the showing of a video of Clarkson.
Jurors saw Clarkson performing for the first time in the self-produced promotional video called "Lana Unleashed," designed to display her comic talents.
The defense used the video in cross-examination of Clarkson's agent, Nick Terzian, in an effort to show that her career was going nowhere before she went to Spector's home and wound up dead, shot through the mouth in the foyer of his mansion.
Terzian portrayed Clarkson as upbeat, enthusiastic and always willing to go the extra mile to get ready for auditions. He had said Wednesday she was a top money maker at his agency, but his testimony showed that in the last year of her life he had booked her for only two print ads — one that would appear only in Spain and paid her $1,500, less commission, and a print cell phone ad for $750, less commission, which was to have been shot on Feb. 8, 2003, five days after she died.