WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY? Following the fireworks that marked defense lawyer Bruce Cutler's abrupt exit from the procedeeings yesterday, Judge Filder told a relieved jury that Monday would be the final day of testimony in the murder trial of Phil Spector. To close out the defense's rebuttal case, two of the most reviled witnesses retook the stand. Jennifer Hayes-Riedl and the infamous Punkin Pie, two of Lana Clarkson's "best friends," answered questions regarding Clarkson's depression in the days leading up to her death at Spector's home. (We also learned that Clarkson attended an Allman Brothers concert at the Wiltern in her final months.) The prosecution bore down hard on Pie especially, trying to prove that she is more of an employee of the defense than a friend of Clarkson. On their last day, the defense tried to hammer home their theory that Clarkson shot herself at Spector's mansion. Their final witness: fourteen e-mails by Clarkson herself, with somber passages projected on a large screen for the jury to read silently. It was a moving closing act and an appropriate way for the defense to rest their case.
IS THIS GOOD OR BAD FOR SPECTOR? Both. It's never good when you lose the lawyer who's supposed to conduct closing arguments one week before they're about to take place, but Cutler was loathed by pretty much everyone in the courtroom, including members of his own defense team. The Cutler departure does have the aura of abandoning ship before it sinks. Projecting the e-mails was effective, however, in that it will assure that Clarkson's suicidal thoughts linger in the minds of the jury as we approach the last lap of a trial that's been in session since April.
IN CLOSING: Judge Fidler announced closing arguments will begin September 5th. The hiatus allows both prosecution and defense to conduct their summations without having the Labor Day break interfere with their flow. Luckily for Team Spector, the September 5th start date also allots the defense ample time to divide up closing duties now that Cutler left.