Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Phil Spector murder conviction appealed

Phil Spector (file photo)
Spector remains best known for the 'Wall of Sound' technique

Lawyers for music producer Phil Spector, 70, are appealing his murder conviction on the grounds of judicial error and prosecutorial misconduct.

They claim Spector, who was jailed for at least 19 years for shooting an actress at his Californian home, was denied his right to a fair trial.

The appeal states lawyers improperly used testimony of five women to damage Spector's character in jurors' eyes.

The producer had pleaded not guilty to murdering Lana Clarkson in 2003.

A five-month retrial took place in Los Angeles last year after the jury in an earlier trial, in 2007, failed to reach a unanimous decision.

During the retrial, five female acquaintances testified that Spector had threatened them at gunpoint in incidents dating back to the 1970s.

His appeal lawyers claim their testimony was impermissible under the law, stating the incidents described were not comparable to Ms Clarkson's death.

Lana Clarkson appeared in cult 1980s film Barbarian Queen
Lana Clarkson appeared in cult 1980s film Barbarian Queen

"None of the... evidence involved events in which Mr Spector put a gun in someone's mouth, much less fired it," appeal lawyers state in an 148-page brief filed in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The appeal says the judge also improperly allowed the prosecution to assert that Spector "had a history and propensity of violence against women and thus should be convicted based on his bad character and evil propensities".

Spector was given a sentence of 15 years to life for second-degree murder and an additional four years for personal use of a gun in May 2009.

At the time, the presiding judge said Spector must serve at least 19 years before being eligible for parole - by which time he will be 88 years old.

In detailed appeal documents, totalling 148 pages, lawyer Dennis O'Riordan criticises the actions of Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler in both trials.

Blood spatter

In particular, he cites the judge's decision to allow prosecutors to show jurors a taped hearing, conducted outside of the presence of Spector and the jury in the first trial, during which the judge appears to reach own conclusions about the position of blood spatter on Ms Clarkson's body.

"Under California law, a judge may not offer evidence in a trial over which he presides," says the appeal, adding that Fidler could not be cross-examined by the defence.

"The evidence was profoundly conflicted on the one issue at the centre of the case: Who was holding the firearm when it discharged," the appeal states.

Appeal lawyers also cite the prosecutors' "vituperative attacks" on Spector's defence team, after Deputy District attorney Alan Jackson suggested expert witnesses had been paid to give untruthful testimony in Spector's favour.

When the defence team called for a mistrial over Jackson's prejudicial remarks, Judge Fidler turned down the motion, commenting that it was "a fair inference that if you pay them enough they will say anything".

Best known for the Wall of Sound technique, Spector created some of the most memorable pop hits of the 1960s for acts like Tina Turner, the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers.

Ms Clarkson was best known for her role in 1985 cult film Barbarian Queen.

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