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Phil Spector / Lana Clarkson Murder Trial


Phil Spector at an early trial hearing

Phil Spector at an early trial hearing

On February 2, 2003, police were summoned to the home of legendary rock producer Phil Spector, best known for creating the "Wall Of Sound" on hits like the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." One of Spector's neighbors, having heard a gunshot, called police to the estate in Alhambra, CA, where investigators found Clarkson and declared her dead at the scene. Initial police reports say that the reclusive producer, long known to be an eccentric and gun enthusiast, met the officers saying "I think I just killed someone." He was immediately charged with the murder and began his trial in May 2007.

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April 13, 2009: After 30 hours of deliberation, a process held up yet again when one of the jurors fell ill, legendary rock producer Phil Spector has been found guilty of second-degree (that is, not premeditated) murder in the shooting death of b-movie actress Lana Clarkson back in 2003. The verdict could land Spector in jail a sentence of anywhere from 18-25 years pending appeal, effectively a life sentence for Spector, who is 69.

California law specifies a 15-year sentence for second-degree murder, with an extra sentence tacked on for use of a handgun; this extra time can range from three to ten years. Spector showed no emotion as the sentence was read; his wife Rachelle, however, sobbed loudly. The jury foreman also cried as she gave the verdict and as she described how the verdict was decided, describing the decision as "painful." "For anybody in our shoes, you have no idea," she said. "It's tough to be on a jury... You're talking about another human being. We all have hearts."

Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson expressed his pleasure with the verdict, stating that "It feels fantastic, this is the type of day prosecutors live for... there was justice that was unserved up until today," he said. "Today is when the Clarkson family gets their justice." Defense head Doron Weinberg, unsurprisingly, plans to appeal and issue a formal request for a new trial, using as basis Judge Larry Paul Fidler's decision to allow other women Spector threatened with a gun throughout his life as witnesses in this, the second trial. (The first, which Fidler also presided over, ended in a mistrial in 2007.)

Spector was led off to jail immediately on orders of Fidler, who denied the famed producer bail.

March 27, 2009: The Phil Spector / Lana Clarkson trial is now officially in the hands of the jury. The last act was played out by co-prosecutor Alan Jackson, who attempted to refute defense attorney Doron Weinberg's closing argument that none of Spector's DNA was present on the gun which killed Clarkson by pointing out that the weapon was never tested for it in the first place -- likewise the gunpowder residue issue. The missing fingernail of Clarkson's, which caused a firestorm of controversy in the first trial after the forensic expert for the defense was alleged to have removed it, was also brought up in the rebuttal as lack of proof of a Clarkson suicide.


Legendary Sixties rock producer Phil Spector -- a millionaire at 21, and "The First Tycoon Of Teen," to quote a famous article -- has always had a prickly personality, but after the failure of his 1966 Tina Turner single "River Deep, Mountain High," which he took as a personal rebuke, he became a virtual recluse. During this time, according to ex-wife Ronnie Spector, he also became physically and emotionally abusive, locking her inside his mansion and refusing to let her leave. Artists he's worked with, from John Lennon to the Ramones, have reported that Spector, a noted gun enthusiast, has pulled a weapon out in the studio on more than one occasion. At his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1989, Spector appeared onstage flanked by three bodyguards who each had one hand inside their jackets. He's also remarked to at least one British writer that he is on medication for schizophrenia, and has claimed to have "devils inside... that fight me." None of this proves that Spector is a murderer, of course, but it does mark him as a troubled, controlling, and paranoid personality.

On the night of February 2, 2003, the legendary producer visited the Los Angeles House of Blues, where he met hostess Lana Clarkson, a former b-movie starlet best known for her role in Barbarian Queen. Clarkson and Spector eventually returned to his 33-room faux-castle mansion in Alhambra around 3 a.m.

At approximately 5 a.m. Adriano De Souza, Spector's chauffeur, claims to have seen the producer emerge from his home carrying a gun, with blood smeared on the back of his hand. "I think I killed someone," Spector allegdly told De Souza, who immediately called the police. When the authorities arrived, they discovered Clarkson, slumped in a chair, dead from a shot to the mouth. In custody, Spector claimed to have accidentally shot Clarkson.

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