Spector appeal knocked back

By | Published on Tuesday 3 May 2011

Phil Spector

A Californian appeals court has rejected a bid by legendary producter Phil Spector to overturn his murder conviction in relation to the death of one time actress Lana Clarkson at his home back in 2003.

As previously reported, lawyers for Spector – led by Dennis Riordan – last month submitted a lengthy document claiming the producer was not given a fair trial when he was found guilty of shooting dead Clarkson back in 2009. They argued that the prosecution should not have been allowed to present former girlfriends of Spector as witnesses – they all told the jury of times when the producer had threatened them with a gun – and also accused Judge Larry Fidler of various procedural errors.

But a three-member panel of the Californian appeals court has rejected all of Riordan’s arguments, insisting the producer received a fair trial, and adding that the former girlfriends were justified witnesses as part of the prosecution’s efforts to show that Spector was prone to point guns at women.

Responding to claims that it was unfair of the prosecution in the original case, when summing up, to suggest some of the defence witnesses (in particular those testifying on forensics) only spoke up in support of Spector because they were paid for their expertise, the appeals judges said “harsh and colourful attacks on the credibility of opposing witness are permissible”.

Referencing some of the key elements of the original trial, the appeals ruling also rules out one of the defence’s original arguments – that Clarkson was suicidal and most likely deliberately shot herself – as well as recalling the testimony of Spector’s then chauffeur, who said that shortly after hearing gunfire at his employer’s home the producer walked towards him proclaiming “I think I killed somebody”.

Needless to say, Riordan was not impressed with the appeals court’s ruling. He told reporters that the appellate decision “does not begin to adequately address the prosecution’s remarkable assault on constitutional rights to a neutral judge and to cross-examine all adverse witnesses”. He said he would seek a rehearing in the appeals court and, if that was denied, take the case to the Californian Supreme Court.