Fatal errors in Spector trial

first_img160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! `At this time,” said Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler, before sending Phil Spector’s jurors home, “I will find that the jury is unable to arrive at a verdict and declare a mistrial.” He could have spared us all a lot of time and money by saying that last week. By then, it was already clear that Fidler had botched this trial. By his own admission, Fidler erred in not asking jurors to also consider whether Spector was guilty of involuntary manslaughter – a charge easier to prove than second-degree murder. And by his own admission, Fidler erred in giving jurors faulty instructions – authored by Spector’s attorneys – that raised the bar of doubt, too, for finding guilt. When the jury initially came back divided, Fidler gave it new instructions, ones more accurate as well as more likely to produce a guilty verdict. But it was an exercise in futility. Even if the jurors – at first split 7-5 – found Spector guilty, his lawyers would have had an easy appeal on their hands. The case was a mistrial, all right – long before Fidler declared it one. The jury ultimately split 10-2, the majority believing he was guilty. But it’s easy to see how, in light of botched instructions up front followed by a sketchy “do-over” after the initial impasse, two jurors would have continued to hold out. There may not have been reasonable doubt as to Spector’s guilt, but there was plenty of reason to doubt the integrity of this trial. Quite simply, Spector’s lawyers outfoxed prosecutors and the judge. They got Fidler to sign off on poor jury instructions that doomed the process from the get-go. That’s a perk of being rich and famous: You can hire better legal minds than the state can. Just ask O.J. or Robert Blake or other high-profile defendants in major cases. Time will tell whether prosecutors can successfully prosecute Spector, but for now, justice has been delayed, and that means denied. last_img