The lead defense lawyer in Phil Spector's murder trial left on August 27, at the request of the embattled music producer.

The 67-year-old Spector told reporters he'd decided to remove Bruce Cutler, who had been absent for several weeks while taping the syndicated TV show Jury Duty.

Spector said he'd decided that having Cutler make the closing defense argument would not be in his best interest.

Phil Spector is charged with fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California home on February 3, 2003. The defense maintains Clarkson, 40, was depressed and shot herself in the mouth.

Spector said he felt Cutler's long absence had weakened his effectiveness with both the jury and Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler. "I thought he would be a target with the judge and prosecutors and that he wouldn't be taken as seriously as he should. With his television show, he wasn't there as much as he should have been," he said.

Cutler has insisted in statements to the judge and the press that he would deliver the final remarks. He said he followed the case on TV and read transcripts while starring as a judge on Jury Duty.

In court, Cutler addressed the judge, saying he and Spector had a difference of opinion on strategy, and he could no longer effectively represent him.

Taking over Cutler's duties will be attorney Roger Rosen, who has been leading the defense effort.

Closing arguments in the case are expected to commence on September 5. So far, Spector has gone through three sets of attorneys. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro, known for his work in the O.J. Simpson trial, represented Spector at his arraignment and early pre-trial hearings. Replacing him were Leslie Abramson and Marcia Morrisey, who were in turn replaced by Cutler.

Phil Spector is charged with second-degree murder. He faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted.