Phil Spector gets 19 years to life for murder

Music producer's defence team claim verdict 'based on conjecture, not facts'

Phil Spector the creator of the "Wall of Sound" and one-time genius behind The Beatles, may spend the rest of his life behind bars after being sentenced to at least 19 years for murdering a B-movie actress at his hilltop castle in Los Angeles.

The 69-year-old pop music icon, whose name is synonymous with the swinging Sixties, was given between 15 years and life imprisonment for shooting Lana Clarkson through the mouth in a late-night altercation at his Alhambra mansion. Four extra years were added to the second degree murder sentence for "personal use of a gun" by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler. Spector has been locked-up since his conviction in April,

An exhausted-looking Spector, wearing a pinstripe suit and red tie, did not betray any emotion when he learned of his fate, which also saw Judge Fidler order him to pay $16,811 [£10,400] to Ms Clarkson's family to cover her funeral expenses, plus $9,740 to a state fund for victims of crime.

Barring a successful appeal, Spector will not be eligible for parole until he is well into his eighties. This week, his lawyers lodged a complaint that the conviction, which followed two trials – the first jury could not reach a verdict – was "based on conjecture, not facts". In the second trial, a jury found that Spector, who had a track record of abusive behaviour towards women, killed Ms Clarkson with a single shot to the head in the hallway of his 30-room home in the early hours of 3 February, 2003, after falling into a jealous rage when she rejected his sexual advances.

He had met her for the first time earlier that night at the House of Blues nightclub in Hollywood. He was the only witness to the incident. He chose not to give evidence during the trial and his only public comment about the killing remains an interview with Esquire magazine in late 2003, when he claimed Ms Clarkson had "kissed the gun".

In court, Spector's defence team had claimed that the 40-year-old actress decided to kill herself on a whim, after discovering his .38 Colt Cobra pistol. They argued that Ms Clarkson, who starred in the 1980s cult film Barbarian Queen but had since struggled to find acting jobs, was distressed over the state of her career and her finances.

Ms Clarkson's mother, Donna, who had always strongly denied that she was in any way suicidal, made a brief statement before sentencing, speaking of her daughter's sense of humour, intelligence and dedication to her craft of acting. "I'm very proud of Lana, proud to be her mother," she said. "No one should suffer the loss of a child."

The sentencing yesterday represents the culmination of an extraordinary downfall for Spector, who shaped some of the most famous music records of the past 40 years, including "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers. He built a fortune that was once estimated at $50m. A highly-strung and reclusive character who had suffered an abusive childhood, Spector was obsessed with firearms and tales of his eccentric behaviour are legion.

According to one biography, Wall of Pain, he kept a gun in the studio, fired a shot during an acrimonious recording session with John Lennon and once pressed a pistol to the neck of the singer Leonard Cohen.

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