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Phil Spector replaces lawyer, hires Leslie Abramson to defend him

Phil Spector
Phil Spector

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Phil Spector
Los Angeles (California)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Music producer Phil Spector has hired Leslie Abramson, one of the nation's best known and most colorful criminal defense lawyers, to handle his murder case, ending his relationship with Robert Shapiro, Abramson told The Associated Press on Monday.

Abramson, who became famous for her role in the murder trial of brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez, said she had been phasing out her defense practice with an eye toward retirement when she was contacted by Spector.

"I was about to hang it up when I got the call," she said. "No other defendant would get me to give up my freedom. No other defendant was someone I considered an idol, an icon and the definition of cool."

Spector, famous for creating the legendary "Wall of Sound," which gave a symphonic feeling to 1950s rock 'n' roll, has worked with the Beatles, Ronettes, Righteous Brothers and many other musicians.

He is charged with fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson at his suburban Alhambra mansion on February 3, 2003. Spector, 62, is free on $1 million bail.

"I don't see any evidence that he did it," Abramson said, adding she has studied the case files.

Spector, who was charged with murder on November 20, suggested earlier this year in an interview with Esquire magazine that Clarkson may have shot herself.

Shapiro, the former O.J. Simpson lawyer, was on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment Monday, but he previously confirmed to The Associated Press he was leaving the case.

Neither lawyer gave a reason for the switch, but Abramson said the decision came in the wake of charges being filed against Spector.

"It is not unreasonable for the client to say, 'I've got to reevaluate things now,"' she said.

Abramson, 60, began her career in the Los Angeles public defender's office and developed a reputation as a fierce advocate for her clients.

With the Menendez case, she became perhaps the most famous woman lawyer in the nation, arguing the brothers killed their wealthy parents in "imperfect self-defense."

Separate juries heard each brother's case and both deadlocked, an enormous victory for the defense. But the brothers were convicted in a second trial and are serving life sentences without possibility of parole.

Along with Abramson, Spector hired Marcia Morrissey, the lawyer who worked with her on the Menendez trials and later defended Carey Stayner in the high-profile Yosemite murder case.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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