It's been a long time coming ... but yesterday ... after literally YEARS of delays going to trial ... and a hung-jury / mistrial last year ... legendary music producer Phil Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of film actress Lana Clarkson at his mansion six years ago.
A Superior Court Jury returned the verdict after nearly 30 hours of deliberations. They also found Spector guilty of using a firearm in committing a crime.
Although his young wife Rachelle sobbed as the decision was read, Spector exhibited no reaction to the verdict. His attorney argued that he should remain free on bail pending the May 29 sentencing, but Judge Larry Paul Fidler remanded him to jail immediately ... where he could spend the rest of his life. (Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison, and the firearm charge carries up to three years in prison.)
Clarkson, 40, and star of the 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen," died of a gunshot fired in her mouth as she sat in the foyer of Spector's mansion in 2003. She met Spector only hours earlier at her job as a nightclub hostess.
Testimony revealed that Spector, who typically led a life of seclusion in his so-called "castle," was out on the town in Hollywood when he met Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003, at the House of Blues. The tall, blond actress had recently turned 40 and told Spector that she was unable to find acting work ... and, as such, had taken a job as a hostess. When the club closed in the wee hours, she accepted a chauffeured ride to Spector's home for a drink. Three hours later, she was dead.
Spector's chauffeur, the key witness for the prosecution, said he heard a gunshot, then saw Spector emerge holding a gun and heard him say: "I think I killed somebody."
It was THAT comment by Spector that made headlines around the world six years ago ... but Defense Attorney Doron Weinberg disputed whether the chauffeur remembered the words accurately. In closing arguments, Weinberg listed 14 points of forensic evidence including blood spatter, gunshot residue and DNA, which he said were proof of a self-inflicted wound. "It's very difficult to put a gun in somebody's mouth," he said. "Every single fact says this is a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Weinberg argued. "How do you ignore it? How do you say this could have been a homicide?"
Prosecutors argued that Spector had a history of threatening women with guns when they tried to leave his presence. He was portrayed as a dangerous man who became a "demonic maniac" when he drank. They also presented blood spatter evidence that they felt proved Clarkson could NOT have shot herself.
It was Spector's past history with guns ... and his treatment of women ... that ultimately did him in. At the first trial, five different women gave testimony telling of being threatened by a drunken Spector ... and even being held hostage in his home ... with a gun pointed at them and threats of death if they tried to leave. The parallels with the night Clarkson died were chilling even if the stories were very old — as some of them were ... 31 years in one instance!
Spector's contribution to Rock And Roll Music was revolutionary ... what a TRAGIC ending to a remarkable career. (Quite honestly, he was probably as well known for his bizarre, eccentric behavior as he was for his inventive musical ear!)
To echo something famed promoter Fred Vail said to me earlier today, it's amazing to think that the inventor of The Wall Of Sound may be staring at the same four walls of his jail cell for many years to come.
ONE MORE THING: Many of you will remember our exhaustive, month-long series on Phil Spector ... put together by FH List Member Steve Knuettel ... about a year and a half ago. (In fact, the conculsion of THAT series that coincided with AOL shutting down our newsletter account ... and thus, the launch of this Forgotten Hits Website!!!) We're trying to work out the details in order to be able to permanently post Steve's FINE series on our OTHER website, where many of our best known series have now been archived. We'll keep you posted as this develops. This will not only give readers a chance to relive this series but also allow NEW readers for ages to come to discover and enjoy Steve's incredible accounting of the career of Phil Spector. Now that it seems that the FINAL chapter has been written, I can't think of a more perfect time to do so. Stay tuned for more details!
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