Spector Jury Hangs
I know I'm late on this one, but it certainly deserves a comment. The Phil Spector jury has hung, which wasn't looking like a huge surprise as the jury's questions became more and more pointed. A few thoughts.
First of all, I certainly can understand why Judge Fidler didn't want a hung jury. This case lasted months, it was very costly, and consumed quite a bit of the Court's resources. That being said, the lengths he began going to to try and get a verdict went a little overboard. The notion of giving the jury a lesser of involuntary manslaughter during deliberations defied imagination - of course, he ended up not doing it, but the amount of press that it got clearly swayed some jurors into realizing that the judge wanted them to reach a verdict of guilty as to something.
From what I understand about the jury instruction the judge gave to the jury, and then withdrew, it appeared as if it was not a correct statement of the law. It may have been a correct statement of the law according to the prosecution's theory of the case vs. the defense's theory of the case. The prosecution's clear theory was that Spector shot Clarkson after putting the gun in her mouth - if it went off accidentally or on purpose it didn't matter, since putting it there was "implied malice," and therefore an act so dangerous to human life that the mere act of doing implies the person is acting with malice (as opposed to the gross negligence or recklessness that is required for involuntary manslaughter). The defense theory was that whoever put the gun into her mouth, Spector didn't pull the trigger, and hence, couldn't be held liable for murder. The problem is, in the abstract, one could be liable under implied malice for murder by putting a gun in someone's mouth even if you don't eventually pull the trigger. Such a scenario was never explored in this case, but giving a jury instruction that he must be not guilty if he didn't pull the trigger is an incorrect statement of the law. How a change in that instruction could've made the difference is beyond me, though. I can't imagine that there were guilty jurors out there who believe that she pulled the trigger.
The retrial is going to be as long and tedious as the first one. It's going to be a slog, and it's going to happen. There is no chance that the prosecution is going to offer Spector anything that he will take - it's too politically unpalatable. District Attorney Steve Cooley will look like a fool in public if he gives Spector anything in the single digits, and Spector, at nearly 70 years old, is not going to plead to double digit time. I just can't see this case settling, especially not with a 10-2 for guilty split. If this was one of my cases, we would settle it for about 12 years or so. That's not going to happen in this case.
Spector will probably get new lawyers. From their perspective, they've just done a great job. They hung the case, they got on TV every day, it is a boon to their career. There's almost no uphill from here, unless they win it next time (not too likely to happen, in light of the split and juror comments in this case). Reality speaking - they're gone.
For the rest of us defense lawyers, I think this is a bad thing. This perpetuates the misconception that prosecutors can't win a fair fight, and that laws need to be changed to deal with it. I'm sure that this will fuel another round of pushing for non-unanimous jurors (the "Phil Spector law?"), and also to keep cases off TV. But, more than anything, it makes future jurors think that every defense lawyer has some trick up his sleave to try and get his obviously guilty client off, and that they should not be trusted. The net result of that means that, sure as day turns into night, there will be more innocent people getting convicted by more overly skeptical jurys. And that's a bad thing, especially for us public defenders who represent the most downtrodden in society. But, I survived OJ, I'll survive this.