By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
There’s always speculation in murder trials over whether or not defendants will testify, and, if not, if this will hurt their cases in the eyes of the jurors. The great American living room, raised on TV courtroom dramas from Perry Mason to Law and Order, has been nurtured on fictitious trials in which the villain, either through trickery or because of vanity, decides to take the stand and, in a moment of neurotic catharsis, admits his crime.
In real life, the O.J.s and Robert Blakes never testify and do just fine. I doubt that the jurors in Department 106 really expected Phil Spector to appear in the witness chair, or that they will count it against him. What they think of his innocence or guilt is another matter.
As the jurors begin their deliberations, however, it will be Cutler’s controversial absence from the trial that people will argue over for months. After his ignominious smackdown by Judge Fidler, Cutler had maintained the fiction that he would be brought back as a closer during concluding arguments, to which reporters only responded with courteous nods. The truth was that Cutler was too much of a showman for the button-down committee of attorneys hired by Spector, and it was no secret that his superstar antics rankled some of them. From May 7 onward, Cutler looked every bit the odd man out as Team Spector strategy discussions proceeded without him and he stopped joining fellow attorneys at bench conferences with the judge and prosecutors. His lonely exile from the action was only italicized whenever he spoke to reporters of his colleagues as “they” and not “we.”
It’s been said that Cutler’s trademarked theatrics, which heavily rely upon melodramatic gestures and use of his booming voice, were ill-suited for a California jury and were only playable in the New York courts — especially the state’s ethnically dense Eastern District, in which Cutler had cut his teeth first as a prosecutor and then as a trial lawyer. One has to question, however, if Cutler’s outsize courtroom persona is valid anywhere except on the stage or screen. Fittingly, Cutler had enjoyed a sort of Elba period in which he shot episodes of a reality TV show called Jury Duty, in which he played a judge. Sadly for him, he was never allowed to return and perform the role that brought him to California so many months ago — a defense lawyer.
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