Phil Spector: Judge to Change Jury Instructions
I can't understand the Judge in the Phil Spector case. Yes, if you're a prosecutor or a judge, it's a drag to try a case for five months and get a hung jury. But when the jury is deadlocked, you don't get a do-over on the charges or the instructions just to force a verdict. That's a recipe for reversal, in my opinion.
Yesterday, the Judge said he was contemplating allowing the jury to consider a lesser charge to solve the impasse. At least a good night's sleep cured him of that.
But today, while deciding against allowing the jury to consider a lesser charge, he decided to modify a critical jury instruction by striking a central statement from it. To make up for any prejudice, he said he'll allow the attorneys to present additional closing arguments.
As the LA Times characterizes it, he "threw the prosecutors a life preserver."
He ruled he would strike an instruction to jurors stating prosecutors must prove Spector held the gun that went off in Clarkson's mouth.
The instruction stated: "If you do not find the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed that act, you must return a verdict of not guilty."
Fidler said he now believes that sentence, which he earlier had approved after it was proposed by the defense, "misstates the law" and called it an "absolute error."
This jury has been deliberating a week. You can't change the instructions at this late date. Clarifying or answering a question is one thing. To change the substance of instructions is another.
The defense, wisely in my view, refused the offer for additional argument and again requested a mistrial.
If Phil Spector gets convicted now, I sure hope he gets bail pending appeal.
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