LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lawyers for music producer Phil Spector have appealed his conviction for killing a Hollywood actress, claiming the trial judge made several errors including introducing new evidence at his second trial.
The appeal, filed earlier this week in the Second Appellate Court in California, says the judge unfairly allowed five women to testify that years before the 2003 shooting, Spector had threatened them with a gun.
The lawyers, led by Dennis Riordan of San Francisco-based Riordan & Horgan, argue trial judge Larry Fidler made errors with jury instructions, wrongly changed rulings and, importantly, offered his own testimony in Spector's second trial, which violated state law.
"Reversal of (Spector's) conviction is required on the basis of improper judicial testimony alone," the lawyers state in their appeal, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Spector, 70, is serving 19 years to life in prison for shooting 40-year-old B-movie actress Lana Clarkson in the mouth on February 3, 2003.
The case drew worldwide interest because Spector was widely known as a pioneer of rock music.
Along with The Beatles, he'd worked with The Ronettes, Cher and Leonard Cohen, and created the distinctive "Wall of Sound" production technique that layered musical tracks over one another and became widely used in the early days of rock.
He met Clarkson at the House of Blues nightclub on the famed Sunset Strip. The two went back to his house, and Clarkson was shot and killed.
Spector's defense lawyers claimed the actress committed suicide by shooting herself in the mouth because she was depressed about her acting career. But prosecutors said Spector murdered her in a fit of rage.
A first trial ended in a deadlocked jury, but at a second trial, Spector was convicted in April last year and sentenced on May 29. At the time, his lawyers said they would appeal.
Key to the defense attorneys' appeal is their claim that prosecutors shifted testimony on forensic evidence dealing with blood spatters.
The change in testimony was supported by a videotape, made during a meeting outside the presence of the jury, in which Fidler offered his own opinions. The attorneys say that video was essentially new evidence that should never have been admitted.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh