Stephen O’Malley

Phil Spector Found Guilty of Murder

Posted: Apr 13, 2009

Phil Spector Found Guilty of Murder
Phil Spector Found Guilty of Murder

Phil Spector Found Guilty of Murder
Published: April 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES —Phil Spector, the rock music impresario behind such hits such as “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” and “Be My Baby,” was convicted of shooting and killing a struggling actress at his mansion after a night of drinking.

Music producer Phil Spector, center, surrounded by his defense team during closing arguments at the retrial murder case in Los Angeles in March.

Mr. Spector, 69, faces at least 18 years in prison. The jury, in a five-month trial, reached its unanimous decision after deliberating whether one of the recording industry’s best-known producers shot the woman in a fit of anger or, as his lawyers argued, merely witnessed the woman’s suicide.

In addition to second-degree homicide, the jury also found Mr. Spector guilty of illegally discharging a firearm.

This was the second murder trial in the case. A previous trial was ended September 2007, when a jury deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of conviction in September 2007. Mr. Spector has remained out on bail for most of the last six years, but was immediately taken into custody after the verdict on Monday.

Mr. Spector came into court looking frail and sullen. He wore a long blue overcoat, a bright red tie, and a shoulder-length mullet hair-style. Gone were his psychedelic glasses and the swagger that carried him through more than five decades at the top of the Los Angeles pop music scene.

He whispered only a few words to his lawyers, whose number shrank to two from more than four by the time the jury was polled. As a court clerk read the verdict, Mr. Spector leaned forward intently. He face betrayed little emotion throughout the proceeding.

The family of the actress, Lana Clarkson, who was 40 at the time of her death, reacted with relief and embraces. They declined to speak to the throng of reporters gathered at the Los Angeles Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Mr. Spector, who was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, is famous for his “Wall of Sound” lush orchestrations heard on an array of hits in the 1960s and 1970s with groups like the Ronettes. He has worked with the Beatles, Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and others but had receded from the public stage in recent years and was known as much for eccentric behavior — he has been often photographed wearing a large fright wig — as his talent.

The verdict came more than six years after Ms. Clarkson was found shot to death in the foyer of Mr. Spector’s mansion in suburban Alhambra on Feb. 3, 2003.

The decision was a victory for Los Angeles prosecutors who have endured high-profile defeats in celebrity murder trials, including the acquittals of O.J. Simpson and the actor Robert Blake.

Mr. Spector, who had been free on $1 million bail, was accused of shooting to death Ms. Clarkson, an aspiring actress best-known for a starring role in the 1985 cult hit “Barbarian Queen” and a bit part in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in 1982.

She was working as a hostess at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip when Mr. Spector visited the nightclub, struck up a conversation and eventually took her out drinking.

They ended up at his Alhambra mansion, known as “the Castle,” but when she spurned his advances and tried to leave he put a gun in her mouth and fired, prosecutors said.

They argued that this fit a long pattern of Mr. Spector’s drinking and threatening women with guns over several years, and they presented testimony from several of them.

Mr. Spector, they said, essentially confessed when he emerged from the home, gun in hand, and told his limousine driver, “I think I killed somebody.” Mr. Spector retreated into the house and in the prosecution’s view, took steps to cover up the crime.

The defense disputed the case on several fronts, including the account of the limousine driver, Adriano DeSouza.

They noted that he was a Brazilian immigrant not fully proficient in English and said he may have misquoted Mr. Spector, who they suggested may actually have been telling him to “call somebody.” A gurgling fountain nearby and the driver’s fatigue and hunger from working all night may have added to confusion, they told jurors.

The defense suggested that Ms. Clarkson was handling the gun when it discharged. They said she was despondent over her lackluster career and finances and decided to take her own life.

They supported their case with scientific evidence they believed questioned the prosecution’s sequence of events.