Producer Phil Spector found guilty of murder

After about 30 hours of deliberation, a jury on Monday convicted music producer Phil Spector of second-degree murder in the death of actress Lana Clarkson more than six years ago.

Wearing a black suit with a red tie and pocket square, Spector showed no reaction as the verdict was announced. Now 69, he faces a sentence of 18 years to life in prison when he is sentenced May 29.

Asked if he agreed to the sentencing date, Spector quietly answered, "Yes."

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler declined to allow Spector to remain free on bail pending sentencing, citing Spector's years-long "pattern of violence" involving firearms.

"This was not an isolated incident," Fidler said, noting Spector's two previous firearm-related convictions from the 1970s. "The taking of an innocent human life, it doesn't get any more serious than that."

Spector's wife, Rachelle, was in the courtroom to hear the verdict Monday, as was Clarkson's mother, Donna.

Clarkson, 40, was found dead, slumped in a chair in the foyer of Spector's Alhambra, California, mansion with a gunshot wound through the roof of her mouth in February 2003.

A mistrial was declared in Spector's first trial in September 2007. After deliberating 15 days, jurors told Fidler that they were unable to reach a verdict. Spector was also charged with second-degree murder in that trial. Jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction.

In closing arguments at the retrial, prosecutor Truc Do called Spector "a very dangerous man" who "has a history of playing Russian roulette with women -- six women. Lana just happened to be the sixth."

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg argued that the prosecution's case hinged on circumstantial evidence. He said the possibility that Clarkson committed suicide could not be ruled out.

Do pointed out, however, to jurors that Clarkson bought new shoes on the day of her death -- something a suicidal woman would not have done, the prosecutor said.

Clarkson starred in the 1985 B-movie "Barbarian Queen" and appeared in many other films, including "DeathStalker," "Blind Date," "Scarface," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and the spoof "Amazon Women on the Moon." She was working as a VIP hostess at Hollywood's House of Blues at the time of her death.

In the 2007 trial, Spector's attorneys argued that Clarkson was depressed over a recent breakup and grabbed a .38-caliber pistol to kill herself while at Spector's home.

But prosecution witnesses painted Spector as a gun-toting menace. Five women took the stand and claimed he had threatened them with firearms. His driver testified that he heard a loud noise and saw the producer leave the home, pistol in hand, saying, "I think I killed somebody."

Spector's retrial began in October. Fidler ruled that jurors could consider the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter against Spector.

Spector's professional trademark was the "Wall of Sound," the layering of instrumental tracks and percussion that underpinned a string of hits on his Philles label -- named for Spector and his business partner, Lester Sill -- in the early 1960s.

The roaring arrangements were the heart of what he called "little symphonies for the kids" -- among them No. 1 hits like the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."

Spector co-produced the Beatles' final album, "Let It Be," and worked with ex-Beatles George Harrison and John Lennon on solo projects after the group broke up. His recording of Harrison's 1971 benefit concert for war relief in Bangladesh won the 1972 Grammy award for album of the year.

Spector has won two Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, but he stayed out of the public eye for two decades before his 2003 arrest in Clarkson's death.

Peter Oberth
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