WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY? With testimony in the trial officially over, the prosecution and defense huddled up with Judge Fidler to discuss what evidence was fair game to discuss in the closing arguments. It’s the portion of the trial called “jury instructions,” and to mark the occasion, Phil Spector’s defense team introduced a new lawyer, Dennis Riordan, to replace the exiled Bruce Cutler. Riordan is a specialist in the arbitration aspects of jury instruction, and marked his territory instantly by getting Judge Fidler to agree that the prosecution could not paint Spector as a villain just because he owns a gun. Riordan was less successful when he tried to get Spector’s chauffeur Adriano de Souza’s claim that Spector admitted “I think I killed somebody” thrown out, as Fidler allowed that testimony to remain. Something that the prosecution and defense did compromise on, however: Spector will face a single count of second-degree murder, and not an additional charge of involuntary manslaughter.
IS THIS GOOD OR BAD FOR SPECTOR? Good. The sole charge of second-degree murder means that the jury must decide whether Spector knowingly/accidentally murdered Lana Clarkson, or Lana Clarkson killed herself. Avoiding an involuntary manslaughter charge is always a good thing. Plus, the addition of Riordan and his legal eagle eyes for jury instruction will help ensure that the prosecution stays within the guidelines during closing arguments.