Published January 13, 2015
The jury in Phil Spector's murder trial on Monday heard e-mails and letters in which shooting victim Lana Clarkson said she was "at the end of my rope" and expressed despondency about her acting career, but the judge rejected a defense effort to introduce her writings about living in a home where an actress committed suicide in the 1930s.
The defense used the e-mails and letters in cross-examining a deputy medical examiner, Dr. Louis Pena, about his finding that Clarkson death from a gunshot fired in her mouth was a homicide, not a suicide.
Pena said he did not see most of the material, and when questioned about most of it, said it would not have changed his opinion.
Clarkson, an actress best known for her role in Roger orman's 1985 cult classic "Barbarian Queen," was 40 when she died in Spector's foyer after going home with him from her job as a nightclub hostess on Feb. 3, 2003.
Clarkson's letters to friends and a doctor in preceding months were read aloud by a defense attorney. They included the phrases "I'm at the end of my rope here" and "I was at the end of my tether."
To one friend she wrote, "You know me, Polly Positive. But (expletive) this year has been the worst. I began to question my talent. ... I've been questioning myself as much as I have ever done."
In letters and medical records introduced by the defense there was an indication she was plagued by constant headaches and for a time could not function because of them. She had also been on strong prescription narcotic medications but in her later communications she said she had discontinued them and had stopped drinking.
She also wrote at one point, "This has been definitely the most difficult year of my life. My finances are a shambles and I am on the verge of losing everything."
Pena said he had not seen any of these documents.
"Did you see any reports when Ms. Clarkson in 2002 went to someone to get her subconscious repositioned," asked attorney Christopher Plourd.
"No," said Pena.
"Would you like to know about that?" Plourd asked.
"No," said Pena.
Clarkson also wrote about how in late 2001 she broke both wrists, including 22 fractures, was hospitalized and was on disability for an extended period.
Plourd asked Pena whether Clarkson's shooting could have been accidental and showed him notes he wrote during a meeting with prosecutors on Oct. 14, 2003.
Explaining the notes, Pena said, "I'm saying accidental discharge is difficult to determine ... guns don't go off accidentally in a mouth. Someone has to pull the trigger."
In the same notes, he said, "Women do not usually shoot themselves. Women are more likely to ... overdose."
At the end of the document he noted he wanted to collect more data on women who shoot themselves. But Pena testified he was too busy to follow through.
In redirect questioning, prosecutor Alan Jackson read the entirety of the letters and e-mails, saying they needed to be placed in context.
"I really feel like I'm losing it. I'm kind of feeling like giving up the dream and therefore the struggle," said one letter.
Jackson asked Pena if that sounded like an actress contemplating giving up career goals rather than suicide.
Pena said yes.
The judge's ruling on Clarkson's writings about the 1930s suicide involved a document from her computer that had been characterized as having accounts of her having visions of the long-dead actress.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler on Friday indicated he would likely allow the material, but after reading it during the weekend he returned to court and sternly indicated he found it so different than the defense characterizations that he checked to see if he had the right document.
Although the defense said its computer experts found that the document had been worked on or saved as recently as 2001, the judge said it was not a diary and the most recent life story material was from 14 years before Clarkson's death.
He read aloud the passage about the 1930s actress, which showed that a Clarkson roommate had a friend who was "psychic" and wouldn't come into their home because of "the presence."
Clarkson wrote that she decided to investigate and found a Hollywood history book with an account of Broadway actress Aleta Alexander, who shot herself to death in a yard at the same address after being unable to get movie roles and learning her husband was spending time with other women.
Clarkson wrote that on a few occasions she and others saw a shadowy figure move through the yard but found no one when they went to investigate. She noted she had the "feeling" several times that someone was in the house.
"It stands to reason as we were struggling actors," said the passage, which the judge noted ended with an exclamation point.
"And this is important how?" the judge asked the defense before declaring that nothing in the document was relevant.
Spector, 67, rose to fame with the hit-making "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the 1960s.