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Court refuses to reconsider Spector's appeal

An appeals court on Friday refused to reconsider music producer Phil Spector's appeal of his murder conviction, saying there was overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

The California 2nd District Court of Appeal panel acknowledged it did not consider an issue that defense lawyers now say was critical to his conviction.

The panel blamed the lawyers for failing to sufficiently brief the point and said they had no obligation to consider it.

They quoted case law saying, "Issues do not have a life of their own: if they are not raised ... we consider the issues waived."

Spector, a legendary rock music producer, was convicted two years ago of fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra mansion in 2003. He is serving 19 years to life in prison on a second-degree murder conviction.

His first trial ended in a hung jury; the second ended in a conviction.

Defense lawyer Dennis Riordan said he will be filing an appeal with the California Supreme Court on June 13. Riordan said in an interview the court ignored a central issue of the case.

"This is the single piece of evidence they can't explain away," he said. "Shooting the messenger is simply not an adequate response to a legal issue of this importance."

Attorneys had argued in the appeal that during the trial, Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler prejudiced the case by allowing prosecutors to use pictures of him in closing arguments as if he was a witness.

They said Fidler also improperly allowed jurors to watch a videotape of him explaining testimony by a witness about forensic evidence at a hearing outside the jury's presence.

Riordan, with colleagues Charles Sevilla and Donald M. Horgan, argued in the petition for rehearing that by allowing jurors to watch the tape and see the photos, Fidler turned himself into a witness and violated his neutrality.

"No aspect of the trial was more startling," they said, noting that in discussions within the legal community, "the assertion that prosecutors included multiple images of the presiding judge among the photos of their witnesses is met without exception by shocked incredulity."

In an addendum to their original ruling, the three-member appeals panel conceded that Spector raised the issue briefly but said, "This cursory treatment in Spector's opening brief does not constitute an adequate presentation of the issue."

"Moreover, given the overwhelming evidence against Spector, we cannot see how the issue could have prejudiced him," they said.

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