Phil Spector Appeals Murder Conviction
Phil Spector's lawyers have filed their opening brief in the appeal of his murder conviction.
[T]hey focused on a judge's decision to allow testimony from five women who claimed Spector menaced them with firearms in the decades leading up to Lana Clarkson's shooting.
Those accounts, which portrayed Spector as a violent misogynist, became "the heart of the state's case, the sine qua non of its efforts to gain a conviction" and amounted to impermissible character testimony, the lawyers wrote.
For one thing, while the judge instructed the jury the testimony could not be taken as propensity to commit a crime, [More...]
Spector's lawyers argued that the judge undercut his admonition by allowing prosecutors to use the word "pattern" more than 40 times in their summations to describe the producer's conduct with women and guns.
"Asserting that a defendant has a 'pattern' of violent conduct is indistinguishable from arguing that he or she has a propensity or character trait for violence," wrote lawyers Dennis Riordan, Donald Horgan and Charles Sevilla.
Other grounds in the 148 page brief focused on the judge, Larry Paul Fidler. One allegation:
Fidler allowed prosecutors to show jurors a videotape of a hearing on which the judge interpreted the action of a forensic witness testifying about the position of blood spatter by resolving a conflict over where a blood spot was located, Spector's lawyers wrote.
"Under California law, a judge may not offer evidence in a trial over which he presides," said the appeal. Spector's lawyers say they could not cross-examine Fidler on what prosecutors say was the case's most crucial issue: Who pulled the gun's trigger.
The brief also argues prosecutorial misconduct:
The appeal also says prosecutors made "vituperative attacks on the integrity of defense counsel and the expert witnesses...passed over the line separating aggressive advocacy from prosecutorial misconduct." Prosecutors accused defense counsel of paying its expert witnesses to lie.
Deputy District attorney Alan Jackson made this statement in his final argument, the appeal says: "How does homicide become a suicide? Just write a big fat check ... Just go out and buy yourself a scientist. Spector defense attorney Doron Weinberg moved for a mistrial after this statement, saying the remarks were prejudicial, but the judge replied that it is "a fair inference that if you pay them enough they will say anything," the appeal said."
The AP has more details on the alleged errors.
Spector is in prison, serving 19 years to life, after the jury found him guilty of second degree murder over the death of Lana Clarkson, who died when a gun went off in her mouth. Spector insisted she killed herself.
Spector’s defense contended Clarkson died by her own hand. They said she was depressed over her flagging career and the accompanying financial worries, and may have committed suicide impulsively after hours of late-night drinking with Spector.
The jury found otherwise. Judge Fidler has also come into criticism for his role in the Roman Polanski case. Polanski's lawyers allege Fidler offered Polanski the opportunity for a hearing on the misconduct allelgations against Judge Ritteband, but only if he agreed to have the proceedings televised. The LA Superior court issued a statement denying it, but both Polanski's lawyer and the DA in Polanski's trial say in a sworn declaration:
In 1997, Douglas Dalton, attorney for Roman Polanski, and Roger Gunson, prosecutor on the Polanski case, met with Judge Larry Paul Fidler in his chambers to discuss the Polanski case. Mr. Gunson and Mr. Dalton advised Judge Fidler of Judge Rittenband's conduct in handling the case that is accurately captured in the documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.
At the meeting, Judge Fidler advised Mr. Dalton that if Mr. Polanski returned to Los Angeles, that he, Judge Fidler, would allow Mr. Polanski to be booked and immediately released on bail, require Mr. Polanski to meet with the probation department, order a probation report, conduct a hearing, and terminate probation without Mr. Polanski having to serve any additional time in custody. That there was a deal worked out between Judge Fidler and Mr. Dalton was reported in the New York Daily News as early as October 1, 1997.
One of the issues raised by Mr. Dalton during the meeting was the question of media coverage. All understood that any proceedings would be open to the public as required by law. During the meeting, Mr. Dalton pressed Judge Fidler for a resolution of the case that would allow for minimal news media. Mr. Dalton recalled that Judge Fidler would require television coverage at the proposed hearing due to the controversy. Mr. Gunson recalls television coverage discussed at the meeting. Mr. Dalton told documentary director Marina Zenovich of this requirement.
It is our shared view that Monday's false and reprehensible statement by the Los Angeles Superior Court continues their inappropriate handling of the Polanski case.
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