Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spector Defense Attorney's Opinion Piece in the LA Times

My2Cents let me know that Mr. Weinberg and Susan Matross (I've been spelling her name incorrectly) published an opinion piece in the LA Times.

Many of the statements made in this article are directly from Weinberg's closing argument. In fact, I would say the majority of them are. The statements about bias in crime labs the National Academy of Sciences (along with an image up on the screen) were presented as part of his closing argument. A hefty part of Weinberg's argument was accusing the LA County Sheriff's Crime Lab and the employees working on this case of bias. However, the image of the report Weinberg put up on the screen was objected to by the prosecution and the objection sustained by Judge Fidler because it was a report that was never admitted into evidence at the trial.

Some of the arguments Weinberg made in his closing are open to interpretation. For example, let's look at this statement:

"The sheriff's chief criminalist could not estimate how many hours or public dollars she had spent, because no one had required her to keep any records, but she proudly asserted that she had spent months just on the examination of every square inch of clothing seized as evidence."

Weinberg is referring to Dr. Lynne Herold here. Dr. Herold testified that no one in her department is required to log how many hours they spend on a particular case. (I believe she stated the only thing the LA County Crime Lab tracks is the number of hours that employees spend in court, testifying.) From what I remember of her testimony, I don't believe anyone in the crime lab has to keep these types of records. You also have to ask, for what purpose would they keep this type of record? Why would they need to? So what if they have to spend an inordinate amount of man hours on an investigation? Some investigations take longer than others. Some investigations are solved quickly because there is not a lot of evidence Some cases take longer because there is more evidence to examine. For Weinberg to characterize Dr. Herold's response as "proudly asserted," to me that's a very pro-defense slanted description of how she testified.

Let's look at this statement:

"The L.A. County coroner admitted that in addition to undertaking every conceivable test and analysis, his office held meetings involving doctors, criminalists, sheriff's crime lab personnel, sheriff's investigators and representatives of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to determine whether the death of Lana Clarkson could be declared a homicide even though the medical evidence could not support that determination."

In this article (and in his closing argument) Weinberg omits the fact that the Chief Coroner, Dr. Lakshmanan also stated that it's not unusual for the medical examiner to be unable to determine the manner of death (MOD) from the autopsy. Many times they cannot determine MOD from the autopsy alone and have to turn to law enforcement investigation to give them that answer. From the way this statement is written, it sounds like what the coroner did was highly unusual. It's not.

Another statement:

"Nonetheless, in September 2004, more than 19 months after the death, Spector was indicted. At that point, for the first time, Spector and his representatives were given access to the prosecution's "scientific evidence."

And I would say, "Thank God!" This is the way it's supposed to be. It would be a breakdown in law enforcement's ability to effectively prosecute a case and keep the integrity of it's evidence secure for trial if they made the evidence in an active investigation available to any Tom, Dick or Harry who wanted to look at it before a suspect was even indicted for a crime.

I find it interesting that Weinberg felt the need to address the reporting in the LA Times about how much Spector paid for his defense experts. Couple that with the fact that Weinberg went to great lengths not to turn over the amounts his expert witnesses were paid to the prosecution. The prosecution had to subpoena those records in a special type of subpoena to Weinberg. The subpoena wasn't delivered until just before the witness was called. When these witnesses did take the stand, many of them did not have their billing records with them. We also found out that several times Weinberg did not even pass the subpoena onto his witness. It was Weinberg who provided the amount that Dr. Spitz had billed. Dr. Spitz didn't even know.

There is a reason Weinberg fought so hard to keep the true amount that Spector spent on his experts from getting in front of the jury. It was a large amount of money and in my opinion, the reason is, it did not look good for his client.

P.S. Weinberg conveniently left out the fact that as a courtesy, Dr. Baden was able to observe the autopsy of Lana Clarkson. After the criminalist's were finished collecting evidence at the scene, it was released back to the defendant and his team was able to view it. They would have been able to observe the areas in the home where Spector left a blood trail. Anything beyond that (such as letting them view collected evidence) would have compromised the investigation. Weinberg conveniently omits a fact that the defense had something the prosecution did not. Complete access to question the defendant as to "what happened" that night. I'm sure the defendant would have been able to supply them with what was "missing" from his home, but I don't believe he returned to it for over a week.


Anonymous said...

I would think that publishing something like this, just before the jury comes back in to do serious deliberations, publishing something that possibly the jury will see, is highly unethical. I wonder what the prosecution or Fidler think of this and if anything can or will be done at this point. Can there be any sanctions of Weinberg after the trial? Is he trying to cause a mistrial?

Sounds like Weinberg is doing anything and everything to derail the testimony and the case.

I can just picture the last ditch gleefulness of Rachelle over this "wonderful" article, but frankly, Weinberg can say anything he wants at this point, the article seemed pretty pointless and verging on tabloid stuff. I think the jury is not that dumb! Also, I think it is very possible that he has already alienated the jury and there is no juror #10 that we know of on this one.

At least we hope so...

Lee in Oz said...

Exactly my thoughts, Anonymous, when I was reading this. Surely it would be highly unethical (or at least unprofessional in the extreme) to write such an article while the jury is still deliberating???

I certainly hope that the jury is sensible enough to ignore such an article if they happen upon it.


Anonymous said...

Back at the begining, didn't JF issue a gag order forbidding those involved in the trial from speaking to the media? Isn't Whineberg's piece a violation of the gag order?

Perhaps AJ and Truc should request a mistrial and ask JF to revoke Spector's bail.

Sprocket said...

Gag order:
You know, I don't remember if he did or not. Unfortunately, I am assuming that he did.

If you review my entry covering Weinberg's closing argument, there is one statement Weinberg made about the state employees that was objected to and Fidler sustained the objection.

I'll re-post it here.


"So even though the evidence was not there, Mr. Spector was indicted. They (criminalists) had no idea how may man hours and time and money spent on that case. YOUR money. [...] They can look at all the evidence and spend all this time and money without reporting it to anyone."

AJ: Objection! That's completely improper!

Fidler: Sustained!

This is a total misrepresentation of the facts of how the LA County Crime Lab operates. The fact is, they are not required to document how many man hours they spend on a particular case. What would be the purpose to track that?

I highly doubt that the prosecution would want to request a mistrial on this latest action by the defense.

Revoking bail:
Spector himself would have to violate the terms of his bond for it to be revoked.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sprocket, I am completely shocked by this. In my opinion this is at the very least unethical and is close to being contempt of court. I will be curious to see if the judge brings this up. I don't believe I have ever heard of a defense attorney posting an op-ed article in a major newspaper while he has a deliberating jury. I can not see how the judge can not address this. He will at least have to ask the jurrors if they have seen it. This would be horific if by some chance this could cause a mistrial. Thanks again for such outstanding reporting and for keeping those of us not in the area well informed.


Geralyn said...

I have a hunch that this will brought up tomorrow. Perhaps JF will bring in the jury, ask them if they have read or seen any media reports regarding PS2. If no one has then I think he may take that opportunity to remind (or admonish?)the jury to stay away from all media sources(for good measure). I recall seeing this done in another case that was high profile. Hopefully JF will seek sanctions against Weinburg.
One things for sure, you will get to see some fur fly in 106 today, Sprocket.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that there might be some sanction against Weinberg by the California state bar for an ethical violation.

Anonymous said...

This is beyond the pale. Weinberg is trying to get a mistrial but instead will be sanctioned by the California bar.

What was the Los Angeles Times thinking, by publshing this when the jury is out?

Anonymous said...

So bizzare...I'm sure the judge will address this, he has too. The Times should never have printed this, amazing. I hope this does not cause a mistrail. Why on earth would the jury think they had to stay away from the opinion section of the paper?

Chelsea said...

Didn't this same thing happen while the PS1 jurors were deliberating? Seems I remember everyday, something new in the L.A. Times....or maybe I'm just remembering RS running amock on My Space.....

Anonymous said...

An eye opening story that exposes the government "experts".

The jury will never read that nor will they read anything about Spector because of the "rules"!


Anonymous said...

To me by publishing this in the paper is very close to jury tampering. I think this may be Phil's way of getting a mistrial. You know the defense would have had a fit if the prosicution published an article like this.

Anonymous said...

Happy April Fools Day Sprocket! Since the jury is back to deliberating today ... do you think they could get by with a triple buzz ... just as a prank?!:)

Iona Trailer said...

Hi Sprocky,

The Coroner's crew are all EXEMPT County employees. They don't get paid by the hour. Whineberg is a moron not to know this.

Anonymous said...

Remember the last trial when RS appeared for an interview on camera for CourtTV and JF immediately called her out on it in court? He was adamant that he didn't want anything to threaten the integrity of the jury and said so.

I can't imagine that he could possibly let this slide while this jury is in deliberations. I don't know what he could do to punish DW except to refer this to the CA bar.

I'd love to hear from some of the attorneys who read this blog as to what options are available.

Anonymous said...

I just wrote to the Times editorial board to complain.

Head of the board is Jim Newton.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how much sleep Spector got last night?! Buzz......buzz........BUZZ!

Say goodbye to your castle, Philip! There is no way this jury isn't reaching a verdict today!

Anonymous said...

It is surprising that the paper would print this--wonder what gave Weinberg the presumption that they would?

Either way the crimalists work, the defense could cry: they spent too little time on the case and made a rush to judgement (how many times do you hear that one?), or they spent too much time on it. So if there is a conviction, blame the criminalists and techs because they did their job too well?
Wes J.

Chelsea said...

Seems strange there are no comments on that Op Ed piece...

Anonymous said...

This is your finest hour!!!!!
Right on top of reporting Wiengberg's
I agree wholeheartedly with most of the commments. They are just directed at the wrong side of the table this time.
Purposely leading your readers away from the true issue;the blowback was
initiated by the 3/30 opinion article in the LA Times quoting from AJ's closing arg.
Let everyone remember the purpose of this blog.

Sprocket said...

Bear with me everyone. I'm still struggling with my trackball mouse I purchased over the weekend.

It's very clear that Weinberg's op-ed piece is a response to the LA Times article.

The difference is, the original Times piece was written by a journalist.

I know that many are outraged by Weinberg's article but IF the jury is following the Judge's orders, they will not be reading it. I don't know if Fidler will see this article in the same light that everyone else is. From what I read, many of the statements are the same statements he made in his closing argument before the jury.

Maybe Weinberg felt that his view of the case was not getting equal coverage in the press and he wanted to address that issue.

We will know today if the prosection brings this up to the judge or the judge decides to address the jurors. If nothing happens then it's not a big deal.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting though isn't it? Weinberg seems to feel a personal need to restate his case. Perhaps he feels that his lawyerly integrity is at stake. The deeper he got into this case, the more mired in the muck he became. Now, he needs to shake off some of the mud before going out into the world to take on other causes. He is forever stained with the Spector stench.

Anonymous said...

You are aware that this as no Op-Ed piece, but rather a letter to the editor RESPONDING to an LAT editorial published on March 29, 2009 specifically referring to the high cost of defense experts in the Spector case and referencing the prosecution's arguments on that subject?

Anonymous said...

What is a defendant charged with murder supposed to do? Not hire experts? Hire experts who are not the best and most respected available?

Anonymous said...

I now see that there is the letter by Whineburg and Moron in response to the article about expert witnesses who are paid. It's hard to know what to say when you see it's a response to the first piece. There's every right to report or editorialize, but I still wonder if he should have been writing anything as I am pretty sure there is a gag order.

Anonymous said...


The LAT piece was NOT a news article “written by a journalist” but rather was an Op-Ed piece written by the editorial staff of the LAT.

Doron Weinberg then submitted a letter to the editor of the LAT responding to OPINIONS expressed in the Op-Ed piece about the high costs of experts in the two Spector murder trials.

Anonymous said...

Comments on the piece are up now. When I checked, there were 28, almost all of them negative towards Weinberg.

Anonymous said...

It is apparent to me that attorney Weinberg was absent from law school when the class discussed the code of professional ethics for legal practitioners!

Whether Weinberg's objective was to "respond" to a previously- published LA Times article... or whether he and co-author Matross had other, more sinister ideas... sanctions should be imposed on him!

Hope you're listening, Judge Fidler and the CA Bar Association!

Emily From Ohio

Anonymous said...

I got a response from the director of the LA Times editorial board director to my complaint. He says that because Weinberg's op-ed was posted online rather than in the print paper, that it doesn't count. He also offered the lame excuse that the jury wasn't supposed to be reading the news.

His e-mail was sheepish. I would have posted it here but can't see to do that with your new format, Sprocket.