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Chained Melody: Phil Spector Convicted Of Murder

Published: Tue April 14, 2009  News Feed

Is it all over for the legendary music producer who helped to create some of the world's  best songs ever?

Phil Spector

Phil Spector - convicted of murder

Two trials involving one legendary music producer. The first jury couldn't reach an unanimous decision, but the second found Phil Spector guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.

Six years after Clarkson was found dead in the foyer of Spector's mansion, the diminutive 69-year-old now finds himself in a Los Angeles jail cell after he was convicted on Monday. His sentencing is scheduled for May 29 where he faces at least 18 years to life in prison barring a successful appeal.

Spector, wearing one of his signature suits with a long black coat, red tie and red handkerchief, had no obvious reaction. His 28-year-old wife, Rachelle, sobbed as the verdict was announced. Spector was led out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies and remanded to jail immediately.

"He took it very stoically," defense attorney Doron Weinberg said later. "He wanted to know what is next."

The jury forewoman, who spoke later, also wept. She recounted the pressure of deciding the fate of another person.

"It just is a painful decision," she said. "For anybody in our shoes, you have no idea. It's tough to be on a jury."

The murder case was a flash from Hollywood's distant past, a reminder of the 1960s when Spector reigned as the hit maker supreme with such songs as the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and the Ronettes' classic, "Be My Baby."

The 40-year-old Clarkson, star of the 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen," died of a gunshot fired in her mouth as she sat in Spector's mansion in February 2003. She met Spector only hours earlier at her job as a nightclub hostess. In one of many ironies of the case, she had no idea of his fame. Prosecutors argued Spector had a history of threatening women with guns when they tried to leave his presence.

The defense claimed she was despondent over her fading career and killed herself. Spector's chauffeur, the key witness, said he heard a gunshot, then saw Spector emerge holding a gun and heard him say: "I think I killed somebody."

The first jury deadlocked 10-2, favoring conviction in 2007. This time, jurors spent about 30 hours in deliberations before finding Spector guilty. They had the option of choosing involuntary manslaughter, but did not do so. The panel also found Spector personally used a firearm in committing a crime.

"It feels fantastic, this is the type of day prosecutors live for," said Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, who summed up Spector's motive for killing Clarkson in one word: "Rage."

Clarkson's mother and sister attended with their lawyer, who said they would not personally comment because they now face resolution of their civil damage suit against Spector.

"The family is pleased that the jury rejected distortions of Lana Clarkson's life," said attorney John Taylor.

Prosecutors, haunted by the acquittals of stars such as O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Michael Jackson, at first seemed invested in making Spector the first showbiz star to be convicted in a major criminal case. But after the first trial ended in a deadlock, public interest faded. The second six-month trial was played out in a sparsely populated courtroom with few members of the media present.

Phil Spector - The Legacy

Phil Spector's career may be truly over now, in a rather inglorious manner. But for music fans and wannabe producers the world over, he'll still be remembered as the creator of the "Wall Of Sound" technique, which revolutionised recordings in the sixties.

Amongst the songs he produced, we can mention Be My Baby, Unchained Melody, To Know Him Is To Love Him and You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'. Spector also produced albums by The Beatles (Let It Be), Ramones and John Lennon.

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