WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY? One day after his jury expressed that they were deadlocked 7 to 5, Judge Fidler sat down with the twelve jurors in the Phil Spector murder trial to determine whether or not they could un-hang themselves. Before that, though, Judge Fidler wrestled with the idea of perhaps reintroducing involuntary manslaughter as a possible alternative charge for the jury to consider. Fidler cited a 1999 trial, as well as something Latin called sua sponte, when considering whether the lesser charge could be added as a somewhat less serious option than second-degree murder. Defense lawyer Dennis Riordan reasoned, via speakerphone, that there was no legal precedent for allowing additional charges seven days into deliberation, and Fidler conceded that Riordan was right, and that second-degree murder would continue to be the sole charge. That means no second act for the closing arguments, and less grounds for the defense to ask for an appeal if Spector is convicted.
So with the jury back in their box, Fidler asked if there was anything in the language of the jury instructions that prevented them from coming to a unanimous decision. Some jurors had difficulty understanding the term "reasonable doubt," but the majority had an issue with "Special Instruction 3," which reads "It is the prosecution's contention that the act committed by the defendant that caused the death of Ms. Clarkson was to point a gun at her, which resulted in that gun entering Ms. Clarkson's mouth while in Mr. Spector's hand -- If you do not find that the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed that act, you must return a verdict of not guilty." The jury was unclear if reasonable doubt had to disprove all of that, or some of that, and if there's a difference between "doubt" and "reasonable doubt." By the end of the day, Fidler decided the jury will resume their deliberations Thursday, and the incomprehensible "Special Instruction 3" would be omitted.
IS THIS GOOD OR BAD FOR SPECTOR? Good. Every day this jury is deadlocked, Spector moves closer to either a retrial with lesser charges, a mistrial or a complete dismissal of charges. The eradication of "Special Instruction 3" might push some of the jurors still sitting on the fence from one side to the other, but a unanimous verdict looks less likely with each passing hour of deliberation.