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Spector Defense Suddenly Near End

After several weeks of trying to persuade jurors that music producer Phil Spector did not murder actress Lana Clarkson, defense attorneys have abruptly decided to close their case.

Defense attorneys said they would have a few minor witnesses Wednesday morning and then would conclude, pending admission of exhibits and a planned jury tour next week of Spector's home. Clarkson died at the home of a gunshot wound through the mouth on Feb. 3, 2003.

The judge said the defense case will not officially rest because of the pending jury tour, but prosecution rebuttal testimony can proceed in the meantime.

As late as Monday night, defense attorneys had listed upcoming witnesses, but changed their minds during a conference over the lunch hour Tuesday, they said.

Photos: Phil Spector
Prosecutors said they were unprepared for the abrupt end of the defense case and would have to start juggling schedules to bring in rebuttal witnesses.

With jurors absent from the courtroom Tuesday, the defense made a final bid to let them hear a transcript of earlier testimony by Henry Lee, a renowned forensic expert who attorney Bradley Brunon said is in China and unavailable.

Judge Larry Paul Fidler sternly lectured the defense on not having exerted "due diligence" to bring Lee to court.

"You knew he was leaving the country. Any time you wanted, you could have had a subpoena issued," said Fidler. "His trip does not take precedence over this trial."

Prosecutors Alan Jackson and Pat Dixon objected to using the transcript, which focused on an allegedly missing piece of evidence and did not address other issues.

Lee was stung earlier in the trial when the judge issued a ruling that his testimony outside the jury's presence was not credible on the issue of whether he found a white object at the scene that might be a missing shard of Clarkson's fingernail. Lee suggested his career and reputation were being damaged by false accusations.

Before court recessed for the day, the judge asked Spector if he wanted lawyer Bruce Cutler to take part in closing arguments despite missing the trial for three weeks to film a TV show.

The New York lawyer protested that he'd only been absent for 11 days of the defense case.

"Even one day," the judge said, could be a problem.

"Mr. Spector," Fidler said, "If you choose to have Mr. Cutler argue this case and if there is a conviction, you give up the right to come back at a later time and say my attorney wasn't there."

In his first comment during the trial, Spector replied, "I'll discuss it with him."

Spector, 67, is a legendary music producer whose "wall of sound" recording technique revolutionized rock music. Clarkson, 40, one-time star of the cult movie "Barbarian Queen," was a down-on-her luck actress working for $9 an hour as a hostess at the House of Blues nightclub when she met Spector and went home with him for a drink.

Spector is accused of murdering her after that night out. Defense forensic witnesses have said she killed herself.

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