Law Practice

Who Will Close in Spector Murder Trial?


At the conclusion of five months of testimony in Phil Spector’s murder trial and with closing arguments scheduled to begin on Sept. 5, observers are asking an unusual question. Who is going to give his closing argument?

Ordinarily, of course, that would be the lead defense lawyer at trial. But Bruce Cutler, who apparently filled that role early on, at least, recently withdrew from the case with his client’s permission, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post. And, at this point, observers aren’t sure who has stepped into his shoes.

The “lead” label has been accorded in a number of news accounts to Dennis Riordan, a well-known appellate attorney whose new presence on the defense team was reported by the Los Angeles Times five days ago. But the trial judge disputed that designation in court today, reports the Associated Press, and Riordan’s clear-cut role reportedly is to help with jury instructions.

“I think that was a little bit of hyperbole,” said Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler, when the prosecution asked today if there was a new chief defense counsel. “Mr. Rosen is the chief counsel, the one we rely on as I understand it,” said Fidler, referring to Roger Rosen, who effectively became the leading defense lawyer as Cutler took weeks off from the trial while he was taping a new reality television show.

Spector’s wife says the famed music producer will now decide which attorney should handle the closing, according to AP.

Spector, 67, is facing a second-degree murder charge for allegedly shooting to death Lana Clarkson, 40, a restaurant hostess and former movie actress, at his home in the wee hours of Feb. 3, 2003. He says she shot herself.

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