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Spector murder trial: Spector attorney resigns

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Editor's Note: As part of's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from This story was first published in 2007.

(Court TV) -- The high-profile lawyer who once headed Phil Spector's legal team walked away from his defense entirely Monday after the music legend refused to let him deliver a closing argument at his murder trial.

Bruce Cutler announced his departure on the final day of testimony in the four-month case. In a statement to the judge, Cutler, a colorful New Yorker who built his reputation defending mobsters, described a "difference of opinion" over which of the five members of the defense team should address the jury. He said Spector's choice of two colleagues forced him to exit the case on the eve of its conclusion.

"I've stayed here all these months planning to sum up. If that's not the case, there's nothing else I can do for Mr. Spector," he said.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Sept. 5 and 6.

Spector, who faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life for the alleged murder of Lana Clarkson, said outside the courtroom that he had asked for Cutler's resignation.

"I told him I thought it would be best for him to remove himself from the case, and he said he would," Spector said.

Spector, 67, added that he "didn't think [Cutler] had full credibility" with the jury, citing the lawyer's performance early in the case and extended absences from the trial.

"He's a target with the judge," the pop music producer said, referring to Cutler's clashes with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler.

Cutler framed his departure as his decision. "I need to work and fight. I can't help him by not fighting," he said.

Cutler was identified as the lead attorney when the jury selection began in March, but he stumbled badly during his opening statement and then infuriated the judge with a savage cross-examination of a woman who claimed Spector threatened her with a gun.

He then left the trial, with Spector's permission, for six weeks to film a television judge show, "Jury Duty," in which he presided over a jury of celebrities.

At the time, Cutler said he read transcripts of the trial and spoke daily to Spector and would still be prepared to deliver the part of the part of the defense summation that did not deal with forensics.

Spector, however, said he was not convinced Cutler was up to speed. He said that he was concerned the lawyer's run-ins with Fidler would haunt him in his summation.

"I didn't believe Mr. Cutler should do the closing argument ... because I didn't think it would be in my best interest," he said.

Cutler and Spector appeared to enjoy a warm relationship throughout the trial, greeting each other at the defense table in the morning with a kiss and long embrace. Both said Monday that they remained friends and used the word "amicable" to describe the parting.

Jurors were not present when Cutler packed his briefcase and strode from courtroom in a typically natty khaki suit and pastel striped tie. At the request of the four lawyers remaining at the defense table, Fidler did not inform the panelist of Cutler's exit.

Defense attorney Roger Rosen, who often acted as lead defense attorney after Cutler's early woes, will give the non-scientific portion of the summation, with forensic scientist Linda Kenney-Baden offering the address on the forensic evidence.

Cutler had frequently complained to the press about the lack of camaraderie among the defense team. Other lawyers for Spector often inquired about Cutler's schedule from members of the media rather than approach the attorney himself.

Asked about Cutler's departure, Rosen said, "I'm not going to talk about Bruce Cutler. It's a thing of the past and I'm not going to discuss it."

Both sides rested their cases Monday after the defense called back to the witness stand two friends of Clarkson. Last week, the defense told the judge the women, Punkin Irene Elizabeth Laughlin and Jennifer Hayes-Riedl, would expand on their previous testimony that the actress was severely depressed around the time of her Feb. 3, 2003, shooting.

The defense said that the women would detail extensive abuse of cocaine and other drugs. But after learning more about the specifics of the women's accounts, Fidler prohibited that testimony.

Hayes-Riedl was permitted to testify that Clarkson called her from a party two weeks before her death and told her that filmmaker Michael Bay had snubbed her.

Laughlin was called to explain a Christmas card she mass-mailed to about 100 friends 10 months after Clarkson's death. In it, she wrote that her best friend was "violently and abruptly taken from me at the hands of Phil Spector."

The prosecution has suggested she began cooperating with the defense and characterizing her friend as suicidal long after the shooting.

Laughlin said she was trying to be "politically correct" when she wrote about Clarkson and felt the words she chose would remind people of her death without alienating people who felt differently about the shooting.

"I was trying to be ginger and conscious about it when I knew it was going to a lot of people that were involved in our lives," she said.

Attorneys will return to court Tuesday to hammer out the legal instructions given to jurors after summations. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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