Friday, March 12, 2010

Phil Spector Appeals Murder Conviction

On March 10th, 2010, Dennis Riordan filled an appeal on behalf of his client, Phil Spector for his second degree murder conviction in the death of Lana Clarkson. It has taken almost a year for Spector’s appeal to be filed with the second district court of appeals. MsNBC reports that the appeal is 148 pages long. In fact, the appellate court’s web site indicates that six days prior, Spector’s counsel first had to file a request to get approval of an over sized opening brief. When that filing was approved on March 10th, the appeal was filed the same day. Although the initial notice for the appeal was logged on June 1st, 2009, the defense filed at least ten extensions for more time to prepare their brief.

The appellate brief is B216425. The LA County District Attorney’s office is not involved in the appeal. That’s handled by the Attorney General’s office. The appellate court’s web site indicates the response from the Attorney General’s office is due Friday, April 9th, 2010. With such a lengthy brief, I would not be surprised if there are filings for extensions to respond by the Attorney General’s office.

For those of you living in the dark ages, Lana Clarkson was killed in the foyer of Spector’s mansion during the early morning hours of February 3rd, 2003. Spector’s first trial ended in a hung jury and declared a mistrial. He was convicted in his second trial on April 13th, 2009 and sentenced on May 29th, 2009. He received a sentence of 19 years to life. I covered a good portion of the first trial and every day of the second trial on Trials & Tribulations.

A big thank you to the T&T readers who wrote me to let me know that the appeal had been filed.

Continue reading here.......

I need to back up for a moment and let you know what’s been going on in the life of this true crime junkie. In the later part of last year, most of my energy was focused on filling holiday orders for my sewing business. About a week before Christmas, (right after I sent off my last order) I got very sick and it took me well over two months to recover. After recovering from what I think probably was that pesky “flying pig” flu, I developed a lingering deep seated cough that appeared to be linked to a sinus infection. It was a second round of very strong antibiotics that finally knocked it out of my system.

At one point in January I was starting to feel good and thought I could attend a pretrial hearing for Alan Jackson’s next case: The Lily Burk murder. The first day of testimony was Friday, January 20th and I took a ton of notes. However, the next day I had a relapse with my lung and sinus infection and was not able to get back to court the following Monday for the conclusion. (Judge’s don’t take kindly to someone in the gallery coughing their guts out every few minutes while there are witnesses on the stand.) Lily Burk’s murder is an absolutely tragic case and I still hope to put up my notes on that hearing if I ever get some free time to myself. In reality, I have several stories I’d love to finish (Cameron Brown notes, LA County Crime Lab) but I have no idea when that might happen.

That’s because lately, my life has not been my own. Ever since Mr. Sprocket entered the realm of being a self-employed service contractor, all of my free time is dedicated to help him in any way that he needs. I have to keep the business books, manage spending and sometimes help him with a repair on the While Whale Work Truck. Mostly though, my time has involved driving him around all day to make sales calls. That’s long hours in the car while he virtually blankets commercial establishments within the San Fernando Valley with his business card, looking for new clients. If you own a commercial business that utilizes refrigeration, or own a commercial building that is looking for a good rate on a HVAC service contract, please drop me an E-mail.

Consequently, my free time for attending court, blogging and sewing has been virtually nonexistent for the past several months. As much as I’d love to get back inside a courtroom, our livelihood rests on Mr. Sprocket’s shoulders and my first responsibility is to helping him achieve his business start-up goals.

In the mean time, T&T is very fortunate to have donchais, ritanita and CaliGirl9 to keep you, our readers out there up-to-date on other high-profile cases in the news. I hope y’all will let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

And that brings me up to now. Today, Mr. Sprocket is out getting parts for an unexpected repair on the White Whale leaving me with a little personal time to report on Spector’s appeal.

At 148 pages, one can’t help but expect that the kitchen sink is in there, somewhere.

I inquired with the appellate court about obtaining a copy of the brief but was surprised to learn that they do not have the facilities to provide copies to the media or general public. I was informed that I could come in and view the brief but if I wanted a copy, I would have to either hire a service to come and make a copy (the clerk gave me the name and phone number of a service who does this) or I could bring in my own copy machine and copy the brief myself. Access to a power outlet would be provided.

I informed Mr. Sprocket where I would need to go Monday morning and that I would need the car and the little rolling cart so I could easily take our copier, plenty of ink cartridges and lots of paper to go make a copy of the brief.

I’m betting that the news outlets that did report on the appeal filing, received a copy of the brief directly from Spector’s attorney’s.

Linda Deutsch of the Associated Press reported that the appeal asks “....they throw out his second degree murder conviction on grounds of judicial error and prosecutorial misconduct.

The AP and other news sources indicate that one of the many issues raised in the appeal were the five 1101b (prior bad act) witnesses that Judge Filder ruled were admissible to testify. The AP article states:

They said prosecutors improperly used the women's testimony to persuade jurors to convict Spector "based on his bad character and evil propensities." They said that was impermissible under the law.

The prosecution originally had many more individuals they tried to get in to testify who had encounters with Spector and guns. I remember when Doron Weinberg presented his motions in court objecting to the testimony of the five women. I believe he argued that this testimony could not be allowed because it was character evidence. I put up the prosecution’s response to this motion on T&T here where Alan Jackson details the “Doctrine of Chances” and the “Doctrine of Corroboration.”

Another issue in the appeal is regarding the testimony of LA County Coroner investigator Jaime Lintemoot and what she specifically observed on Clarkson’s wrists at the scene.

The Associated Press article indicates the appeal states:

In the appeal, attorney Dennis Riordan outlined errors he said were committed by Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler in both trials, calling one of the judge's actions "startling."

The appeal said that occurred when Fidler allowed prosecutors in the second trial to show jurors a videotape from a hearing held outside the presence of Spector and his jury in the first trial. On the tape, they said, the judge was seen interpreting the action of a key forensic witness testifying about the position of blood spatter on Clarkson's body.

I know exactly what the brief is talking about here.

Jaime Lintemoot was prosecutor Truc Do’s witness. During Weinberg’s initial cross, he was asking her where she observed blood spatter on Clarkson’s wrists. Part of the problem with all the testimony of where the blood spatter was on Clarkson’s wrists, the correct anatomical names were not being used to describe the areas of the wrists. This occurred with virtually every witness who testified about the wrists.

In any medical diagram, the full view of the human body is depicted with the arms turned out and the palms up. This side of the body is called the front of the body or “anterior” and the backside of the body is called the posterior. This means that the little finger side of the writs would be called the medial edge (close to the body) and the thumb side of the wrists would be considered the outside or more correctly the “lateral” edge of the body, even though when our hands are naturally turned palm down, our thumbs appear to be on the “inside.” All throughout the trial, the lateral and medial edge of Clarkson’s wrists were called interchangeably either “inner” and “outer” completely confusing the issue, including Lintemoot when she testified on the stand.

Lintemoot had to be called back to the stand by the prosecution for redirect to correct a misstatement she made in cross, identifying where she saw the “mist like” blood spatter.

When the defense presented their case, one of their forensic witnesses (Off the top of my head, I believe it was Dr. Spitz) testified that the blood spatter had to have been in a totally different area of the wrist, supporting their theory that Lana Clarkson was holding the weapon when it discharged inside her mouth.

On cross examination of the defense witness, the prosecution presented the video tape evidence of Jaime Lintemoot testifying at the FIRST trial. Within that small piece of video tape, Judge Fidler is on the tape, clarifying for the record where Lintemoot is indicating on her wrists she saw the mist like blood spatter.

In Spector’s appellate motion for a new trial, it appears they are contesting Fidler’s ruling that allowed this piece of video tape (that included Fidler) to be played to the second jury.

I remember when this evidence was presented in court and the objections Weinberg made to allowing the jury to see this testimony (that included Fidler) from the first trial. I clearly remember Fidler telling Weinberg in response to his objections, something to the effect that he had "the best seat in the house" (his chair sits higher than the witness stand) and he could clearly see from his vantage point where Jaime Lintemoot was indicating on her wrists.

There are several other issues the media mentions and you can read about them in the links below.

Once I obtain a complete copy of the motion, I hope to have it up on the web in either a PDF format somewheres or significant sections transcribed on the blog.


BBC News