Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Phil Spector Appeal: Oral Arguments Heard Today

Update 4/13/2011: New entry covering oral arguments.

Right now, at the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in downtown Los Angeles, The California State Court of Appeal (Second District, Division Three) oral arguments are being presented for Phil Spector's appeal of his second-degree murder conviction. Spector was convicted on April 13th, 2009 for the February 3rd, 2003 shooting death of Lana Clarkson at his "Pyrenees Castle". Spector's defense strategy at his first and second trial put forth the theory that Clarkson shot herself with a gun from Spector's home.

Spector's appeal claims several points of judicial error. I've roughly outlined those points below.

1. Judge Fidler made "testimonial" statements at his second trial that violated Spector's right to confrontation.

2. Uncharged brandishing offenses should not have been allowed.

3. The "profane" statements allowed through Officer Tannazzo should not have been allowed.

4. Prosecutorial misconduct – referring to the pay of Spector's experts.

I will not give my personal opinion on the appeal, but I will make a few observations about the appeal. The Appellant (Spector) refers many times to the first trial. I thought that was interesting in light of the fact that anything that happened during the first trial does not matter. The only thing that matters is what happened at the second trial. Dennis Riordan, viewed to be a brilliant appellate attorney among his peers, knows this.

I've received an opinion from an "expert," a licensed attorney not affiliated with the case, a law professor in fact who read all three briefs on the appeal at my request. Below are just a few excerpts from the opinion they sent me on the merits of the appeal.

"Prosecutorial misconduct is extremely, extremely hard to prove. Spector's lawyers would have to show that the comments affected the outcome of the case."

"Even if the judge "testified" about the blood spatter on the hands during the Lintemoot testimony in my mind there is "NO WAY" that violates the Confrontation Clause - under the Crawford analysis. The term "testimonial" has a very special meaning under Crawford, and I do not see that the Judge's comments in any way rise to that level. And, the defense did have an opportunity to question the Judge even if it was testimonial."

My "expert" felt that the other two claims of the appeal are the only issues that have legs. However, they did state they felt that the appellate court would give "deference on appeal" to the trial judge on those issues.

I've been told by my friends in the mainstream media that California law requires a decision to be rendered within 90 days of the oral arguments being heard. They felt that the decision would probably be issued within six to eight weeks.


Sprocket said...

Hi Sprocket,
I am totally amazed that there are any meritorious points in this appeal. The judge was so meticulous with the whole trial. When the decision finally comes down, does this end Spector's appeal process? The State would have to prosecute yet another time if he wins. Would California do that? In light of the fiscal mess that is life nowadays, would they prosecute a third time? This concerns me. This man needs to pay the price for things he has done. Justice has been served. To game the system just makes me so discouraged. I sure hope the appeals court doesn't rule in his favor. Thank you, as always, for covering this.

Sprocket said...


If the lower court verdict is affirmed, this does not end Spector's right to appeal. He could still appeal to the California Supreme Court, but my understanding is, if he loses in this level of appeal, it becomes even harder to win at the higher court level.

Now, if the appellate court reverses the lower court decision then yes, to me it's a sure bet LA County would try this case a third time. I don't think there is any question about that.

There is another case that is going to trial for the third time: The Cameron Brown case, possibly sometime next year. I attended the second trial in that case in Judge Pastor's courtroom, which is across the hall from Judge Fidler's court.

Sprocket said...

Nora wrote:

Seems that the appeal will have difficulty being accepted - here's one article on it. And thanks for getting the opinion of a law expert on this, and keeping the updates.

Fox News Article


Sprocket said...

Wes Said:

Betsy thanks for covering this, I saw the LA Times article also. In that, the presiding judge was skeptical of the concept that the trial judge was doing anything more that clarifying what the witness said. "Judges do that all the time", he is quoted as saying. Why would Mr Riordan not be aware of that? I agree he (Riordan)has a photograhic-type memory of appeal law and is extremely smart. I did see him on a couple stories that did full-hour shows on the West Memphis 3, attempting to overturn the murder convictions of the 3 young men. I would bet he is doing it pro-bono because, if you read between the lines of the people involved, nobody there has that kind of money. My guess is that a well-heeled client like PS helps subsidize the work being done there for free.
When next you can corner lawyer Taylor, do ask what is the status of the wrongful death suit agains Spector. I hate when these things are settled out of court cause then we cannot get the juicy details!
Wes J.

Sprocket said...

David Said:


I remember something I heard during the Court TV coverage of the first trial. Eddie Hayes, a fairly famous defense attorney, and a sometimes partner of Bruce Cutler, was commenting. He said something like:

"Phil Spector's attorneys don't have very much to work with."

That seems to be the case regarding the appeal.

David In TN

Sprocket said...

Mortie Said:

Trials & Tribulations

I have started hearing about this case almost from the day it happened. (February 3, 2003). I have followed every Byzantine twist and turn and gone into legal black holes trying to find order out of the chaos presented by his defense teams. When it comes to this criminal defense, it seems the more money you pour into the mix of opinions and rhetoric; the harder it is for normal common people to make sense out of "Justice". When I listen to a defense attorney attack the memory of a dead person and vilify them and who cannot possibly come back to rebut their words, that they are as ugly as they come, I am embarrassed to be of the same race of humans as they are. I want to apologize to the parents of Lana Jean Clarkson for the sickness that dwells in their minds and taught by co called "Law Schools". Their ethics and morals are for sale to whoever should want to bid on them and no deed or set of words are beyond their pale. May they rot beyond the Seventh Circle.