Outlook bleak for Spector as murder trial goes to jury

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The Independent US

Four and a half years after a struggling actress ended up dead in the foyer of his fake Pyrenean chateau in the Los Angeles suburbs, Phil Spector is about to find out if the benevolent laws of celebrity justice apply to him – as they did to O J Simpson and Michael Jackson – or if he will spend the next several years behind bars as a convicted killer.

The legendary record producer's five-month-long murder trial – the first to be televised since the O J circus more than a decade ago – is expected to go to the jury tomorrow, and the consensus among lawyers and journalists is that Spector's prospects are not too good.

Just about everything that could have gone wrong for his defence team has. Spector's lead attorney, Bruce Cutler, rubbed up the judge and jury the wrong way several times, then vanished for weeks to appear in a reality TV show, then quit on the final day of witness testimony because his client did not want him to deliver the closing statement.

The defence's star expert forensic witness – a veteran of the O J case called Henry Lee – was accused by the judge of failing to turn over evidence he picked up from the crime scene and then lying about it. He ended up not testifying.

The prosecution has been led by a masterful deputy district attorney, Alan Jackson, who accused his adversaries of mounting no more than a "chequebook defence", in which expert witnesses were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with sympathetic interpretations of the facts.

Lana Clarkson was a struggling actress and performer when she ran into Spector at the House of Blues nightclub in West Hollywood, where she was working as a hostess, on the night of 3 February 2003. Clarkson accepted an invitation to ride back to Spector's house in a chauffeur-driven limousine only to wind up with a bullet in her head from a.38 Colt Cobra.

The prosecution team contended that Spector had a long history of threatening women with firearms, calling four powerful witnesses who told harrowing stories of what it was like to date the man who invented the "Wall of Sound". It also called Spector's driver, Adriano de Souza, who recalled Spector coming out of his house right after the shooting and saying: "I think I killed somebody."

The defence sought to argue that Clarkson shot herself, either accidentally or because she was suicidal.