3 Jan

Spector judge changes his mind

first_imgBut Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler called jurors in and asked them how the court might help them break the deadlock, which the foreman said is a 7-5 split without indicating which direction the panel was leaning. Several jurors spoke up, citing differences of opinion among them on the evidence and on the concept of reasonable doubt. The judge said outside their presence that he would have to tell the jury that deciding reasonable doubt is “an individual determination” that is part of the deliberation process. However, he later decided to withdraw a jury instruction that seemed to confuse a few jurors. In order to convict Spector of second- degree murder it required them to find that “the defendant must have committed an act that caused the death of Lana Clarkson.” It went on to specify that the act was pointing a gun at her, which resulted in the gun entering her mouth while in Spector’s hand. TRIAL: He says deadlocked jury would be influenced if he let it consider lesser charge. By Linda Deutsch THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The judge in Phil Spector’s trial retracted his idea of giving the deadlocked jury a new instruction Wednesday on a lesser charge than second-degree murder, saying it would be tantamount to telling them to convict the record producer of involuntary manslaughter. “I think some jurors may have a question about whether every element of that instruction must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” one juror had said. The judge said that after re-reading the instruction, he decided that it misstates the law and was going to withdraw it. The defense objected, saying he would be sending a message to jurors who relied on the instruction that they had been wrong in their opinions. Fidler offered defense attorneys a chance to present new final arguments on the issue but they declined, saying that would just draw undue attention to it and would allow the prosecution to present a new theory of the case. The defense once more moved for a mistrial, which the judge refused. The possibility of giving the jury a new instruction to consider involuntary manslaughter was raised by the judge after the impasse was revealed, but he ultimately reasoned against it. “We’d all like this case to get resolved and have the jury arrive at a result,” said Fidler, who cited the five-month ordeal for jurors, the defendant and the family of Clarkson, the actress who died of a gunshot in the mouth at Spector’s mansion in 2003. “But at a certain point in deliberations after the jury has arrived at an impasse, to give them a new offense ? is essentially saying to them, `If you can’t find him guilty with what you have, try this,”‘ he said. “It would be inappropriate to instruct the jury at this time on a lesser offense of manslaughter,” he said. The judge rejected strenuous arguments from prosecutor Alan Jackson urging the instruction and accepted equally vigorous statements of law by defense attorney Bradley Brunon, who noted that the prosecution had never asked for an instruction on involuntary manslaughter and would be changing their theory of the case in midstream. Jackson said he wasn’t changing his theory, which could be applied to manslaughter as well as murder. But the judge challenged him: “If the facts are so clear why didn’t you argue them? Why didn’t you ask the court to include lessers?” Jackson said it was “our strategic position at the time.” More than an hour of arguments revolved around interpretations of California Supreme Court precedents, one dating to 1904. Fidler had thrown defense lawyers into a panic Tuesday when jurors reported the deadlock and he suggested that a case he had found might support giving an instruction on a lesser offense. But overnight, he said, he did further research that changed his mind. He said a new instruction would be perceived as telling them what to do. Spector, 67, is charged with murdering Clarkson in his Alhambra mansion on Feb. 3, 2003, a few hours after she met him at her job as a nightclub hostess and went home with him. The defense maintains Clarkson, 40, was depressed and shot herself either on purpose or by accident.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img