It's an almost forgotten fact, but the murder retrial of legendary pop music producer Phil Spector, 68, is still unfolding in Judge Larry Fidler's downtown courtroom. You may remember that Spector's five-member legal team managed to win him a hung jury in 2007 — leading to Spector II, which began at the end of October and which resumed today after a long holiday break. The new environment is Department 106 is considerably different. Gone are the Court TV cameras, the battery of national reporters and the melodrama of day to day testimony. Missing too is Spector's impish hairdo, replaced by a down-the-back pelt that shows dangerous signs of evolving into a mullet.

Phil Spector, circa 2007
(Photo by Ted Soqui)

Gone also is Spector's high-octane brace of lawyers, replaced by

Doron Weinberg, the cagey San Franciscan whose Bay Area colleague,

Dennis Riordan, caused so much legal mischief at the end of Spector I

when the jury instructions he crafted proved to be a near-poison pill

for the prosecution. Weinberg, 64, exudes an air of legal scholarship,

his professorial voice dryly contesting virtually every aspect of

prosecutors Alan Jackson and Truc Do's case over minutiae. Weinberg's

hairsplitting is probably why it's now 2009 and yet the jury is still

hearing the prosecution's case.

This morning nearly an hour

went by as Weinberg argued, during a so-called 402 hearing ,with jurors

not present, why he should be allowed to question prosecution witness

Dr. Louis Pena, an L.A. County forensic pathologist, about his decision

not to draw up a “psychological autopsy” on Lana Clarkson, the House of

Blues hostess whom Spector is accused of murdering. (The defense in

Spector I tried to portray Clarkson's death by gunshot inside the mouth

as an act of spontaneous suicide.) Every time Judge Fidler politely

explained why Weinberg could not turn his cross-examination of Pena

into a fishing trip, the Professor nodded and then proposed, in his

authorative voice, that he be able to do so — approaching the issue

from a slightly different angle.

Poor Dr. Pena sat outside in

the hallway while this was happening, no doubt recalling the grueling

cross-examination he endured during the first trial. The retrial

jurors, however, have no such memory of that or the trial's incredibly

dense technical defense, and so seemed very chipper as they chattily

assumed their seats when the hearing ended. They'll have a chance to

learn for themselves, however, just how tedious evidence can sound once

Weinberg begins the defense's case. Whenever that happens.

LA Weekly