The women in the Phil Spector case

While everyone is trying to figure out what happened in the jury room and assign blame or credit to the lawyers, there's a problem in this case that goes much deeper and its ramifications will be felt for years to come. It involves the women who testified about Spector's violent past - and the men who didn't because they weren't called (or in some cases, have passed away).

While writing my book Twentynine Palms, I met a woman named Tammy Watson. She had recently suffered a nervous breakdown. The daughter of a sergeant major in the Marine Corps, she was raped by a Marine shortly after he had returned from the Gulf War in 1991. Marines (and their families) follow a strict code - for the most part, they take care of their own. So rather than calling police, she went to her father - one of the highest-ranking black NCOs in the Corps at that time. He assured her that the situation would be handled. Six weeks later, the man who assaulted her raped and killed two girls in an apartment near the base. When Tammy saw their faces on the front page, she collapsed. But that was just the beginning of her ordeal.

A few weeks after the double homicide, she was on a double date. She and the other woman began talking and the woman remarked that her sister had recently been killed by a Marine. "Is his name Valentine Underwood?" Tammy asked. Krisinda said yes. "I have something to tell you," Tammy said. "He raped me. I thought my father was taking care of the situation. I guess he didn't and I'm sorry. I should have called the cops." The last time I spoke with Tammy was in 2001, ten years after both incidents. Barely able to get through a day, she still blamed herself for the murders of Rosalie Ortega and Mandi Scott.

The women who testified in the Phil Spector case all had their reasons for not calling the police after Spector threatened them at gunpoint. Presumably, so did John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, and DeDe Ramone - a few of the men who were on the receiving end of that behavior as well, according to the many legends that have swirled around Spector for years. Would things have turned out differently for Lana Clarkson if, just once, someone had called a cop? I pose the same question to those who think she killed herself at Phil Spector's castle. If, just once, he had been busted, the news would have spread, and perhaps, instead of hearing from fellow employees that Spector was "golden" (House of Blues seating jargon), Lana might have learned about his violent past and gone home.

I also pose a question to the media, the same one I asked in my coverage of the case for Spin Magazine and the UK Independent. For decades, reporters took their Spector cue from Tom Wolfe's giddy piece, "The Tycoon of Teen." He was a genius, Wolfe said, maybe a little nutty, but he sure had a lot of money. And that's the story that was written many times in many different ways, and it continued when he was arrested, and it only stopped recently, and now, is likely to resume again. Or perhaps not - if reporters can step away from the jury interviews and take a look at their own role in what happened on the night of February 3, 2003.


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