Phil Spector Murder Trial Ends With Hung Jury
By: Gerri L. Elder
This reeks of O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake all over again. Do fame and fortune insure that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office will never be able to convict someone with celebrity status? Some legal experts say that is the case and that fortune plays a bigger part than fame in a person’s ability to avoid a conviction.
After a trial that went on for 5 ½ months and 12 days of deliberation, the jury in the Phil Spector murder trial announced that they were hopelessly deadlocked and would not be able to come to a unanimous decision. The judge declared a mistrial.
The final jury vote was 10-2 in favor of convicting Spector of the murder of Lana Clarkson and prosecutors say that they will re-file charges and Phil Spector will go on trial again. He is currently free on bail.
Spector and lawyers for both sides will return to court on October 3, 2007 for a pretrial hearing to determine how the case will proceed from this point.
Spector is accused of shooting Lana Clarkson through the mouth in the foyer of his home. On February 3, 2003, police were called and arrived to find Clarkson’s body slumped in a chair inside Spector’s home, dead from the gunshot wound. Her purse was on her arm.
During the trial prosecutors pursued a conviction for second-degree murder against Spector. In the new trial, they will have the option of giving the jury the choice of manslaughter, pursuing the second-degree murder charge again or attempting to work out a plea deal with Spector.
Spector’s team of criminal defense lawyers argued during the trial that Clarkson had shot herself in Spector’s home after going home with him after they met at the House of Blues club, where she worked. At the beginning of the trial they had said that Clarkson committed suicide, but towards the end of the trial introduced the theory that she accidentally killed herself using Spector’s gun.
The defense also painted a picture of a desperate and depressed Clarkson and said she was under the influence of alcohol and painkillers, which may have contributed to the shooting, whether accidental or not.
The two jurors who voted not guilty in the case reportedly believed the defense theory that Clarkson may have committed suicide. One of the non-guilty holdouts was reportedly a woman who had refused to look at the death scene photographs of Clarkson.
During the trial, five women testified for the prosecution that they had known Spector in the past and that he had threatened each of them with guns when they had attempted to leave or refused to do something that he demanded. The scenarios described by the five women sounded chillingly similar to the circumstances surrounding Clarkson’s death.
One juror who spoke at a press conference after Judge Fidler declared a mistrial said that he and some of the other jurors felt that the defense bombarded them with evidence that insulted their intelligence.
During the trial Spector’s driver testified that on the night of Clarkson’s death, Spector came out of his home holding a gun and said “I think I killed somebody.” His testimony reportedly swayed some jurors who were not otherwise convinced of Spector’s guilt to change their votes to guilty.
Legal experts say that the prosecution presented a very solid case against Spector, but that they made a mistake in not asking the judge to include the option of manslaughter in the jury instructions.
Perhaps they will correct that error the next time around. Both the prosecution and Spector’s criminal defense lawyers will have the opportunity to refine and fine tune their arguments for the next set of jurors.