Order spectre might haunt judge later

LOS ANGELES - The judge in Phil Spector's murder trial, struggling to help deadlocked jurors reach a verdict, is taking an unusual step that some legal experts say could make a conviction easily reversible on appeal.

LOS ANGELES - The judge in Phil Spector's murder trial, struggling to help deadlocked jurors reach a verdict, is taking an unusual step that some legal experts say could make a conviction easily reversible on appeal.

With jurors split 7-5, superior court Judge Larry Paul Fidler, pictured, said on Wednesday he planned to withdraw a legal instruction some jurors cited as a point of dispute when they announced the impasse a day earlier. The judge sent the jurors home early and told them to return yesterday.

The instruction concerns the prosecution's theory that Spector held a gun to actress Lana Clarkson's mouth, and that the weapon discharged, causing her death. It says jurors must find Spector committed that act in order to convict him of second-degree murder.

Fidler said he reread the instruction and decided it misstated the law.

"It sort of takes your breath away," said attorney Harland Braun, who is not involved in the Spector case, but has represented other high-profile clients. "I've never heard of withdrawing an instruction after deliberations started." Spector, 67, is charged with killing Clarkson in his Alhambra mansion on February 3 2003. - Sapa-AP

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