Wall of Years: Phil Spector Faces Mandatory Life Sentence
In the end, the jurors for Phil Spector's second murder trial did what the first jury did: They let
Judge Larry Paul Fidler know their deliberations had reached a conclusion -- but late enough in the morning so that they would get one more catered lunch out of the case. The two panels' denouements were far different, however. The first trial's 2007 outcome was a 10-2 deadlock in favor of the music producer's conviction for second-degree murder. Today, however, it was a unanimous vote for conviction in the death of Lana Clarkson, whom the Wall of Sound creator had been accused of shooting in the mouth in the early morning hours of February 3, 2003.
The long good-bye: Phil Spector during first trial
In both cases Spector's attorneys -- largely compelled to by their client's remarks to police after Clarkson's death -- put forward the theory that Clarkson, a 40-year-old sometime actress, had committed suicide on the fly after having a few drinks with Spector at his Alhambra mansion, the Pyrenees Castle. Likewise, prosecutors imagined Clarkson's death had occurred under quite different circumstances following Spector's impromptu pick-up of Clarkson after she ended her night-shift job hostessing at the House of Blues night club on the Sunset Strip. In both trials Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson claimed that Spector's almost folkloric history of menacing women with firearms fit the February 3, 2003 scenario in Alhambra to a T.
When spectators, members of the media, bloggers and D.A. staffers filed into court shortly before 2 p.m. this afternoon, it was with the knowledge that the jury could very well only convict Spector on the far lesser involuntary manslaughter charge -- an option not given the first jury.
But it wasn't to be.
"I understand," Judge Larry Paul Fidler announced around 2 p.m., "how
emotions can run high at a time like this, but I do not tolerate
outbursts from anyone -- the verdict will be respected."
found Spector guilty on second-degree murder, and threw in the enhancement
of using a firearm in the commission of a crime. His young wife,
Rachelle, broke into sobs upon hearing the verdict. It was difficult to see, from almost any
angle in court, how Spector took the news, but he did seem to shrink
slightly at the defense table. Judge Fidler continued to be all
business and quickly had the jurors polled on the verdict before
entertaining a sentencing date. Alan Jackson immediately asked for Spector
to be remanded into custody, while Spector's attorney, Doron Weinberg,
requested that Spector be allowed to remain free on bond. Weinberg's
voice was uncustomarily quiet during this exchange, as though he were
trying to regain his wind after hearing the sentence. Spector, he told
the court, was no flight risk and, besides, Weinberg would be filing a
motion to have the verdict set aside.
Fidler was unpersuaded
and ordered Spector taken immediately to county jail. (See booking photo.) As the bailiffs
hustled Spector out toward the side court door used by inmates, the
full impact of what was happening to him seemed to suddenly dawn on
Spector, who shuffled forth in a daze. And then he was gone, like Don
Giovanni pulled into the Underworld by the Commendatore's ghost.
At a media conference held about half an hour later, Alan Jackson said
the 69-year-old Spector faces a mandatory life sentence, which, with
the gun enhancement, would mean a minimum of 18 years in prison. Spector's sentencing date is May 29.
When asked if he thought the gender makeup of second trial's panel,
which split evenly among men and women, boded better for a conviction,
"I never try to rub that crystal ball."
Still, the three jurors and three alternates who showed up at the conference were all women.
Their spokeswoman was Juror Number One, the panel's forewoman. She
mostly answered all questions with the same reply -- that everyone had
entered the deliberations with a neutral, open mind and had carefully
considered all the evidence and testimony before making their
collective decision. Juror No. One said no one found Spector's demeanor
during the trial to be a distraction and even praised his San Francisco
attorney. It was then that she became emotional and wept.
"This entire jury took this so seriously," said Juror No. One, "and
could not have been more painful in our decision." Then, turning to
Spector's attorney: "It had nothing to do with Mr. Weinberg's ability
-- you were awesome."
After the jurors left, Weinberg, having regained his fire, was
declaring his confidence that he could get the conviction overturned
based on what he considered Judge Fidler's incorrect rulings on
evidentiary procedures -- specifically, the inclusion of the testimony of
five women who had previously been held against their will by an armed
Spector. Still, Weinberg conceded, there was not much likelihood
Spector would be released on bond during his lengthy appeal process.
And then it was over and the press, lawyers and bailiffs left the
courtroom that had held the conference. The Clarkson family would now
proceed with their civil suit against Spector; Lana's mother, Donna,
and her sister, Fawn, appeared pleased by the verdict, though they did
not speak later. During two trials Lana Clarkson had been held up by
Spector's lawyers as a suicide waiting to happen -- a binge drinker and
drug abuser whose career had been crippled by physical pain and psychological trauma.
Prosecutors had countered with a portrait of a vivacious, optimistic talent
cut down just as she was finding herself. At the end of this day,
though, Lana Clarkson remains a tragic mystery to those who followed her story in
"I can't say that I know her," said Juror No. One, a statement that might well have been the day's most revealing.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.