Phil Spector Appeals Murder Rap, Citing Error, Misconduct

Lawyers for Phil Spector, who was convicted and sentenced to 19 years to life for the second-degree murder of actress Lana Clarkson, asked the California Second District Court of Appeal this week to reverse the verdict and order a new trial.

The appeal focused on Judge Larry Paul Fidler’s decision to let five women who say Spector had threatened them with guns to testify, the Los Angeles Times reported. The judge also let prosecutors use the word “pattern” more than 40 times in their summations, the appeal said.

“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,” Spector lawyers Dennis Riordan and Donald Horgan from San Francisco and Charles Sevilla from San Diego wrote in their appellate brief.

But the 148-page brief raised other issues as well, the Associated Press reported. 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 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.

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