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Phil Spector's lawyer asks for murder conviction to be overturned

A lawyer for Phil Spector says the trial judge in the music producer's murder case was improperly involved in the prosecution's closing arguments.

April 13, 2011|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times
  • Phil Spector in court for his sentencing in Los Angeles in 2009.
Phil Spector in court for his sentencing in Los Angeles in 2009. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

A lawyer for Phil Spector urges a state appellate panel to overturn the music producer's murder conviction on the grounds that the judge was a participant in a multimedia presentation used by prosecutors in their closing arguments.

A lawyer for Phil Spector urged a state appellate panel Tuesday to overturn the music producer's murder conviction on the grounds that a multimedia presentation used by prosecutors in their closing arguments turned the trial judge into a government witness.

The argument before the 2nd District Court of Appeal centered on photos of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler using his hand to demonstrate the location of crucial blood evidence in the shooting death of an actress.

The photo appeared in a PowerPoint presentation alongside pictures of two forensic witnesses who had testified about the blood spots, which prosecutors said proved Lana Clarkson's 2003 death was murder and not suicide or an accident.

Dennis Riordan, a lawyer for Spector, told the three-judge panel that the photos were unprecedented "in the history of American jurisprudence" and amounted to testimony that conveyed to jurors "the judge is on our side."

The assertion was met with skepticism by Presiding Justice Joan Klein, who said the photos showed "a mere clarification" of witness testimony by Fidler.

"Judges do it all the time," she said.

Riordan said this was different because Spector's defense had asked the judge to instruct jurors not to consider the photos as evidence and Fidler had refused.

The court has 90 days to issue a ruling. Spector, 71, is serving a sentence of 19 years to life. His wife, Rachelle, said after the hearing that she visits the music legend and is "trying to be very positive" about his appeal's chances. Clarkson's mother, Donna, and sister, Fawn, also attended the proceeding but declined to comment.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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