Defendants Stand Together as 'Twilight Zone' Case Winds Down
May. 08, 1987
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A defense attorney Thursday rejected what he called the prosecutor's suggestion to the jury in the ''Twilight Zone'' trial that it acquit his client in return for convictions against other defendants.
Leonard Levine, who represents production manager Dan Allingham, cast his client's lot firmly with director John Landis and three other filmmakers in a final argument stressing a united defense against involuntary manslaughter counts.
He noted that Deputy District Attorney Lea Purwin D'Agostino had conceded that Allingham and associate producer George Folsey knew less than other defendants about events that led to the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two children in a fiery movie set disaster.
''She gives you a false issue because she wants you to go back there and compromise and convict someone to salvage this case,'' said Levine. ''Well, all of these men are not guilty.''
In her summation, Mrs. D'Agostino said Allingham and Folsey were less culpable because they didn't know how low a helicopter would hover above the actors and didn't know that a bomb had been placed in a dangerous position under a thatched hut
Levine called this ''the big gamble in the prosecution.''
''What is she doing?'' Levine asked rhetorically. ''She's got five people here. What is she doing?''
''If she's saying, 'Acquit Dan Allingham and George Folsey but convict the others,' thanks, Mrs. D'Agostino, but no thanks.''
''You acquit Dan Allingham because he knew the scene was safe,'' Levine told the jury.
Allingham, Folsey and Landis are charged with involuntary manslaughter along with special effects supervisor Paul Stewart and helicopter pilot Dorcey Wingo.
They are charged in the deaths of Morrow, 53, Myca Dinh Le, 7, and Renee Chen, 6, who perished when a helicopter, hovering amid special effects explosions, fell on top of them.
The charges against Folsey and Allingham are slightly different than the others. They are charged only in the deaths of the two children under a statute which involves child endangerment.
Wingo and Stewart are charged in all three deaths under a different law as is Landis who alone is named in five counts, including the child endangerment charges.
As defense final arguments neared a conclusion, Levine urged jurors not to perceive the prosecutor as outnumbered by her many opponents.
''This is not a case of one D.A. against six attorneys,'' said Levine. ''The state has enormous power.''
He listed an array of law enforcement agencies and investigative bodies available to Mrs. D'Agostino for her case.
''If it appears we're all ganging up on one prosecutor, remember this is the state and the district attorney's office, not just one prosecutor,'' Levine said.
Folsey's attorney, Harland Braun, was the last scheduled to give a summation. Mrs. D'Agostino will present a rebuttal argument before the case goes to the jury sometime next week.
Later, Levine ended his argument with an emotional description of the grief all the defendants suffer.
''These five men have been in their own private hell for five years,'' he said. ''On a movie they planned and rehearsed, three people died, and you bet they feel responsible. But they know in their hearts and minds they were not wanton and reckless. They know in their hearts and minds they are not guilty.''
Levine stressed that none of the defendants believed the ill-fated scene was unsafe and that none could have foreseen it ending in tragedy.
''They're not perfect men,'' Levine concluded. ''The last perfect man was crucified 2,000 years ago. They're not heroes, they're not martyrs, they're not saints. But they weren't prophets either. And they are not guilty.''
The trial was recessed until Monday when Braun will address the jury.