The final day of testimony in Phil Spector’s trial began dramatically, with the music producer’s often-absent lead defense lawyer announcing that he was leaving the case.
Bruce Cutler stood in court Monday, five months after the trial’s testimony phase began with jury selection, and told the judge in the case that he had “a difference of opinion” with Spector on strategy.
“There’s nothing I can do for Mr. Spector,” he said. “I can no longer effectively represent him.”
Spector later told reporters outside court he decided that Cutler, who had been absent for several weeks while taping a syndicated TV show, “shouldn’t do the closing argument because it wouldn’t be in my best interest.”
Spector, 67, is charged with murdering actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra mansion on Feb. 3, 2003, a few hours after she went home with him from her job as a nightclub hostess.
The defense maintains Clarkson, 40, was depressed and shot herself in the mouth.
Spector said he felt that Cutler no longer had a connection with the jury because of his long absence and that Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler didn’t like Cutler.
“I said that he shouldn’t do the closing argument and that it wouldn’t be in his best interest to stay on. He agreed,” Spector said in the hallway as he left the courtroom at midday.
Jennifer Hayes-Riedl and Elizabeth “Punkin Pie” Laughlin reiterated previous testimony that Clarkson was upset about being “dissed” by director Michael Bay at a party. Bay testified he never saw Clarkson there.
The defense then began showing jurors a series of Clarkson’s e-mails, reflecting depression about her career and other troubles.
“I hurt myself of course, injured as usual by tequila,” she said in one of the messages recently extracted from the hard drive on her computer. In another she talked of getting “hammered” after she was stood up by a man.
She described a meeting with an entertainment executive who gave her a scalding critique, telling her to change her hair color, her comedy, her personality. The e-mail concluded, “I don’t feel ready to change the color of my hair, stop making people laugh and give up my dreams.”
Later, Fidler told the jurors, who heard form 77 witnesses over the course of the trial, that the evidence in the case was finished.
He said final arguments would be presented next Wednesday and Thursday, with jury deliberations to begin Friday.