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The judge in the murder trial withdraws one of the instructions to the deadlocked panel. 'I can see why' it's confused, he says.
By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
2:22 PM PDT, September 19, 2007
The deadlocked jury in the Phil Spector murder trial will be asked to resume its deliberations after the judge this afternoon said he would withdraw a legal instruction that jurors said was a stumbling block in reaching a verdict.
The decision to drop the instruction came this afternoon. This morning, Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler decided not to allow the jurors to consider a lesser charge.
The jury was sent home in the afternoon as Fidler and the lawyers continue to discuss how to resume the celebrity trial, which began in April.
"There's some good news," Fidler told the jurors before letting them go for the day. "We will give you new instructions that may be a benefit to you. It may help you or it may not."
Jurors will return Thursday morning.
On Tuesday, the jury of nine men and three women said it was split 7 to 5 on whether Spector, 67, shot actress Lana Clarkson, 40, on Feb. 3, 2003. The jury was not allowed to say whether the majority supported guilt or acquittal.
When Fidler polled the jurors this morning, they indicated they had questions about Special Instruction No. 3. They also said they had discussions about how to determine reasonable doubt.
Special Instruction 3 lays out the prosecution theory of the encounter between Spector and Clarkson in the early hours of Feb. 3.
"It is the prosecution's contention that the act committed by the defendant that caused the death of Ms. Clarkson was to point a gun at her, which resulted in that gun entering Ms. Clarkson's mouth while in Mr. Spector's hand," Fidler told the jurors Sept. 10 before sending them off to deliberate.
"The prosecution bears the burden of proving that defendant Spector committed that act. If you do not find that the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the act, you must return a verdict of not guilty," Fidler said.
The problem with the instruction, Fidler said today, was that the last sentence misstated the law. "I can see why the jury is confused," he said.
He said he would tell the jurors that the instruction was withdrawn. He also said he would give both sides a chance to reargue before the jury resumes deliberations.
"It's that simple," he said, or "as simple as anything can be," he added in a rueful voice.
quote:Patrick, as best I can tell, they have to do everything outside the presence of the jury before they do it in front of the jury. Everything. Seems like Judge Ito used to do everything twice outside the presence of the jury.
From the LA Times:
Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, called Fidler's decision "a huge favor to the prosecution." Removing the instruction during deliberations "is a not-so-subtle message to the jury that there may be more ways to find Spector guilty than they have been thinking of," she said. Levenson had been appointed by Fidler to serve as a special master in the Spector trial to help resolve an evidence dispute.
[So, the judge doesn't even have to do his job? He can fire some law professor to decide an evidence issue? And, then, that law professor gets to second-guess the judge in the media? What the heck are the rules in California? Is it just a free-for-all? How do the citizens put up with this? And, why oh why wouldn't the prosecution have asked for a manslaughter lesser-included?]
I once asked a prosecutor from San Francisco how long it typically takes them to try a plain-Jane, meat-&-potatoes burg. of a hab case. Nothing complicated, no celebrities, just a run of the mill case. She said "about 2 weeks."
I've notice that a lot of crooks from Calif. have very long rap sheets. I can't understand them, so I always call the Calif. A.G.'s "Command Center," in Sacromento, where they have experts standing by to answer out of state prosecutors' questions about their very complex rap sheets. Invaribly, after they have analyzed 4 or 5 pages of the rap sheet, I am lucky to have one case that resulted in a conviction, everything else was eventually dismissed.
Calif. law does have one advantage over Texas, however. It's probations are considered final convictions for enhancement purposes, so I am able to use them to enhance my case. This hardly makes them especially prosecutor friendly, however, since the only other state that I have found that does not consider probations for enhancement purposes is Maryland. And I have checked with lots of states on that question.
The defendant used a shovel to break in a door window to unlock the door and was seen clearly by the kids inside who were home alone for summer vacation. The defense did actually argue that the "REAL" burglar was still out there somewhere (OJ?), and if only there were fingerprints on the shovel, we could identify that person. Patrick took full advantage of that shovel in his rebuttal to defense counsel's closing argument. It was fun to watch!
And yes, it was less than 8 hours to try (excluding jury selection).
I understand when Wilson walks in to try a case, the bailiff starts whistling "Folsum Prison Blues," to give the defendant an idea of what's fixing to happen.
Where do they find these jurors? Are they sending out a pre-approved renewal of their Medical Marijuana license if they'll just show up and agree to be on the jury for 1/2 a year?
That's funny. They used to say the same thing about you in Fort Bend County.
Furthermore, I hear it's a regular barber shop quartet of whistling baliffs in Georgetown on their felony trial days.
Accompanied by a banjo?
Only if my dear friend AP is in town.
From the LA Times
The murder trial of Phil Spector ended today with the jury unable to decide if the legendary music producer had killed an actress he had known for only a few hours before her body was discovered in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion.
On its 12th day of deliberations, the jury of nine men and three women told Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler that it could not reach a verdict and was split 10 to 2 after six ballots. It was not known what the majority favored.
Money helped Spector more than celebrity
Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
By Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 27, 2007
In January 1965, the Righteous Brothers song "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" hit the airwaves and soon became a No. 1 hit. By the end of the 20th century, the anthemic tune had become the most played song on American radio. It can still be heard almost any day in any part of the country.
Every time the song is played on the radio, producer and co-writer Phil Spector makes money.
Over the last four years, Spector used that bundle of cash, as well as money he made from several other signature songs of the '60s and '70s, to hire seven lawyers, a bevy of forensic experts and several private investigators to mount a defense against a second-degree murder charge.
After a Los Angeles jury told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler that it was hopelessly deadlocked Wednesday, several legal experts said Spector's ability to finance a more elaborate defense than 99% of other murder defendants played a key role in the record producer being able to walk away free, pending a retrial.
"Whether you are buying a car, a boat or a defense, the bigger the budget, the better the ride," said Robert Hirschhorn, a Houston jury consultant who has worked on many high-profile cases.
Several other legal experts agreed that although Spector was not a celebrity of the magnitude of O.J. Simpson or Michael Jackson, his wealth served him well in the trial.
"I don't think" the jurors who held out for acquittal did it "because of some 'we love Phil' sentiment," Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson said.
Rather, she said, she thought Spector's vast resources enabled him to hire a large and sophisticated defense team that was able to persuade two jurors that he had not shot and killed actress Lana Clarkson four years ago.
"It's fair to say the more resources you have, the better the result you are likely to get," Levenson said.
Noting that several jurors initially indicated that they did not know who Spector was, Levenson said his money was more important than his fame.
"Even when Spector was at his peak, he was a behind-the-scenes person," unlike the performers he produced, including the Beatles, Ben E. King, Ike and Tina Turner, the Ronettes, the Crystals and the Ramones, said USC law professor Jean Rosenbluth.
But all the work Spector did for those stars brought him wealth, and in the end "money matters more than celebrity," Rosenbluth said.
A juror who thought that Spector was guilty dismissed the notion in a post-trial interview that the music producer's renown, which the defense labored to keep in the jury's mind, had anything to do with the outcome. Rather, the juror said, Spector's team had enough firepower to offer several possible reasons for acquittal.
"I think the money Spector used for forensic experts" who countered the prosecution's blood-splatter evidence, was well spent, said Loyola law professor Stan Goldman, who followed the trial closely.
Most defendants don't have more than $100,000 to spend on someone like forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who spent several years working on the case, Goldman said.
"It is not a matter of hiring these guys and having them spend a few minutes on this," Goldman said. It was clear "that they spent serious time thinking about this case."
The jury foreman cited three factors that played a role in the decision of jurors to vote not guilty.
They included the prosecution's failure to present a psychological profile of Clarkson to counter defense witnesses who suggested she had committed suicide. In addition to the medical experts, the defense called on the testimony of several former friends of Clarkson, who were found by defense investigators.
The foreman cited the prosecution's failure to establish that Spector had held the gun when Clarkson was shot. The foreman also said that driver Adriano DeSouza's testimony that he heard Spector say "I think I killed somebody" was undercut by DeSouza's videotaped remark to police that his English was not perfect and that he was not positive about what he had heard.
Goldman said the defense team apparently had proved wrong the skeptics who ridiculed Spector's lawyers for injecting the suicide theory into the case.
"They said it was a terrible defense that will never work, but apparently it was one of the things that the defense needed to do," Goldman said.
A key defense witness on this point was Werner Spitz, formerly the chief medical examiner of Wayne County, Mich. He offered testimony that Clarkson shot herself. Spitz called the shooting "a spur-of-the-moment determination, without thinking."
Spitz and two other defense experts directly disputed contentions by prosecutors and the Los Angeles County medical examiner that Spector murdered the 40-year-old actress.
Spitz told the jury he concluded that Clarkson shot herself because gunshot wounds in the mouth almost always are self-inflicted. He also said that blood, tissue and gunshot residue found on her hands suggested that she was holding the gun. Moreover, Spitz testified that Clarkson was in an unbalanced mental state and that her judgment was impaired by alcohol and drug use.
Clearly, not all of Spector's spending bore fruit. Some of his millions went to well-known lawyers who were not around at the end.
He parted ways well before the trial started with two of the best-known attorneys in Los Angeles -- Robert Shapiro, one of the lead defense lawyers in the Simpson case, and Leslie Abramson, who kept brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez off death row after they had murdered their parents. And Bruce Cutler, who had represented Mafia boss John Gotti before Spector hired him, quit after testimony ended, when he learned that he would be barred from taking part in the closing arguments.
Perhaps Spector's best investment in an attorney was Dennis Riordan, of San Francisco, the last lawyer to join the team. Riordan played the lead role in drafting jury instructions that helped produce a deadlock, jurors said.
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