Saturday, September 22, 2007

Still No Verdict In Phil Spector Trial

The Phil Spector murder trial jury spent more than four hours in deliberations Friday with new instructions issued by the judge to try to break their 7-5 deadlock. But the panel did not reach a verdict and went home for the weekend 45 minutes early. There were no questions from the nine men and three women, who heard five months of testimony. The panel got the case on September 10 and had entered its seventh day of talks Tuesday when it reported the impasse. The judge had the jurors stop deliberating until he decided on new instructions.

Spector is charged with killing actress Lana Clarkson in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion on February 3, 2003, a few hours after she met him at her job as a nightclub hostess and went home with him. She died when a bullet fired from a gun in her mouth went through her spine. Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler gave the jury new instructions Thursday afternoon after several days of volatile discussions with defense attorneys and prosecutors concerning the impasse.

In the end, the judge devised his own plan. The unorthodox route he took, withdrawing a legal instruction and adding one that gave the jury suggestions on new interpretations of evidence, drew criticism from legal analysts who said his actions were weighted toward trying to convict Spector. The experts suggested any resulting conviction would be vulnerable to reversal by a higher court.

The judge also gave a controversial instruction which said the jurors might want to start their deliberations over with a new leader or try role reversal in which jurors argue each others’ opposite opinions. The jury’s apparent dedication to trying again for a verdict may bode well for the prosecution during appeal if a conviction is returned, said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and Loyola Law School professor. “The jurors are not having a knee jerk response to these instructions,” she said. “If the modified instructions were so coercive you would expect the jury to come back immediately and say, ’The judge wants us to convict. We will.’ “The longer they are out after instructions, the better it is appellate-wise.”


No comments: