Spector trial hears of 'Russian roulette' with women
Record producer's defence team says actress committed suicide
Wednesday 25 March 2009
Six years (and two court cases) after a struggling actress was shot dead at Phil Spector's hill-top castle in Los Angeles, lawyers have made their final arguments at the record producer's murder trial.
Mr Spector is either a "demonic maniac" with "a history of playing Russian roulette with the lives of women", or an innocent bystander who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He stands accused of killing Lana Clarkson during a late-night argument in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion.
The jury, which in his previous trial was deadlocked 10-2 in favour of conviction for second degree murder, yesterday heard the closing argument from Mr Spector's defence team: that the 40-year-old woman blew her brains out in an "impulsive and unplanned" suicide.
"This is a circumstantial evidence case. No one can tell you 'this is what happened'," Mr Spector's lawyer Doron Weinberg claimed, before insisting that his client, "did not kill Lana Clarkson, that's what the evidence shows".
Prosecutors say Ms Clarkson died when the eccentric record producer, whom she had met just hours earlier at the House of Blues club in Hollywood, flew into a jealous rage after she tried to leave. In a highly theatrical closing speech, prosecutor Truc Do dimmed the lights before telling the court: "Behind the VIP was a very dangerous man, a man who believed that all women deserve a bullet in their head."
During her two-hour speech, Ms Do showed images of five women who have all said Mr Spector confronted them with guns. "This case is about a man who has had a history of playing Russian roulette with the lives of women," she said. "Five women got the empty chamber. Lana got the sixth bullet."
The prosecutor cited evidence from Mr Spector's chauffeur, who was allegedly told after the incident: "I think I killed somebody!". She also claimed that Mr Spector had tried to wash his hands after police were called. "He can wash his hands clean of her blood but he can't wash them clean of her murder," she said.
The fate of the 69-year-old producer, best known for creating the "wall of sound" recording technique during the 1960s, has been hanging in the balance since the night of Ms Clarkson's death, when he was arrested and released on $1m bail. Both sides agree the victim died sitting in an ornate chair in Mr Spector's hallway on 3 February 2003.
Judge Larry Paul Fidler this week gave his jury of six men and six women the option of considering a lesser count of involuntary manslaughter, if they were unable to unanimously agree that the defendant deliberately pulled the trigger.
Mr Spector has cut a bizarrely emotionless figure throughout proceedings. A packed courtroom, on the ninth floor of LA Superior Court has seen him sport a colourful selection of haircuts and outfits, and varying amounts of make-up.
"Spector looks catatonic," said Royal Oakes, a legal analyst for US television. "You couldn't imagine anyone who seems more disengaged or disinterested. He seems heavily medicated. But how his overall appearance will affect the verdict is anyone's guess."
At the end of the prosecution's final presentation, Mr Spector's lawyer, Mr Weinberg, moved for a mistrial, saying that Ms Do had focused on character assassination rather than the facts of the case. The claim was dismissed.
The defence case revolves around the argument that Ms Clarkson, who starred in the 1980s cult movie Barbarian Queen but had failed to secure significant acting jobs since, was depressed over the state of her career, and decided to shoot herself on a whim, after discovering Mr Spector's personal firearm. The actress was said by friends to be in high spirits at the time of her death. But the suicide theory is supported by paid testimony from several blood-spatter experts – and was enough to create reasonable doubt in the minds of two jurors in the original trial.
Judge Fidler's summing-up is expected to conclude either today or tomorrow, before the jury retires to consider its verdict. Second-degree murder carries a sentence of between 15 years and life. Experts say his decision to allow a conviction on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries between two and four years, increases the chances of Mr Spector facing some sort of conviction.
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