LAWFUEL – Altered instructions from the judge in the Phil Spector murder trial threw a life preserver to prosecutors by agreeing to revoke an instruction that deadlocked jurors had said they found confusing, legal experts said.
The LA Times reports that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler’s decision came during a remarkable day in court, during which jurors were called into the courtroom to speak publicly about the issues behind the impasse, which has left the five-month trial hanging in the balance.
Spector, 67, is charged with murdering actress Lana Clarkson, who was found shot through the mouth in his Alhambra mansion Feb. 3, 2003. Spector’s attorneys say the 40-year-old Clarkson, despondent over a faltering acting career and money problems, shot herself.
The jury, after 28 hours of deliberation, announced Tuesday it was split 7-5. At the judge’s direction, the foreman did not reveal whether the majority favored guilt or innocence.
To break the deadlock, Fidler first considered, then rejected, instructing jurors they could consider the lesser offense of manslaughter. Then he ruled he will strike an instruction to jurors stating that prosecutors must prove Spector held the gun that went off in Clarkson’s mouth.
The instruction stated: “If you do not find the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed that act, you must return a verdict of not guilty.”