Phil Spector case ends in mistrial

Deadlocked jury could not reach verdict

Record producer Phil Spector’s murder trial ended in a mistrial Wednesday because of a jury deadlock.

“We are disappointed the jury was unable to reach a verdict. We will start immediately to prepare for a retrial,” said Los Angeles County D.A. Steve Cooley. Spector will remain free on $1 million bail.

The next court hearing is Oct. 3 for scheduling dates leading up to the retrial. Spector is not required to attend.

On Wednesday, each juror told Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler that the panel could not reach a verdict.

“At this time, I will find that the jury is unable to arrive at a verdict and declare a mistrial in this matter,” the judge said.

The mistrial came on the 12th day of deliberations on whether Spector murdered actress Lana Clarkson more than 4½ years ago.

The foreman reported the panel was deadlocked 10-2 but did not indicate which way they were leaning.

The trial entered uncharted procedural waters on Sept. 18, when the jurors, who had been deliberating since Sept. 10, told Fidler that they had reached a 7-5 impasse in their deliberations but did not indicate which way they were leaning.

Spector has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Clarkson and faced a possible life sentence if found guilty.

Eager to avoid a mistrial, Fidler first told counsel that he wanted to explore the possibility of allowing the jury to deliberate on the lesser charge of manslaughter, but he concluded that it would be improper because it would signal to the jury that the court wanted a conviction at all costs.

After interviewing the jurors, Fidler decided that the instruction about the meaning of reasonable doubt could be the reason for the deadlock, and over defense objections, he provided a new instruction and gave hypothetical scenarios under which Spector could be held guilty. The jury resumed deliberations on Friday.

The nine-man, three-woman jury includes “Dateline NBC” senior producer Adam Gorfain. In his juror questionnaire, he acknowledged familiarity with the case and indicated that his work focused on high-profile crime stories.

On Feb. 3, 2003, nightclub hostess and B-movie actress Clarkson was found dead at Spector’s mansion in Alhambra. On Nov. 20, 2003, Spector was indicted for Clarkson’s murder.

After numerous delays, the trial began April 25 in downtown Los Angeles. The defense claimed the death was a suicide and offered testimony that Clarkson was depressed about her career, as well as forensic evidence that she shot herself in the mouth. The prosecution contended Spector had a history of threatening women with guns and that he shot Clarkson after she declined to spend the night with him. Spector’s chauffeur, Adriano DeSouza, testified that Spector emerged from the house immediately after the sound of a gunshot, holding a gun in his bloody hand and stated, “I think I killed somebody.” Spector did not take the stand during the trial.

The trial was marked by controversy. Spector went through three sets of attorneys. He was first represented by Robert Shapiro, one of the original members of the O.J. Simpson “dream team.” Shapiro was replaced by well-known defense attorney Leslie Abramson, who in turn was replaced by Bruce Cutler, best known as the attorney for Mafia boss John Gotti. Cutler, who was frequently absent from court to film a television show, left the defense team on Aug. 27, when Spector refused to allow him to give the closing argument. It was given instead by attorney Roger Rosen, who had functioned as lead attorney in Cutler’s absence.

Famed forensic expert Henry Lee was accused of hiding crucial evidence found at the crime scene that the police had overlooked. Sara Caplan, one of Spector’s former attorneys, was compelled to testify that Lee placed a item in a vial at the crime scene but that she couldn’t identify it. A former law clerk also claimed to see Lee remove an item from the crime scene. The prosecution theorized that the missing item was an acrylic nail that was pulled off Clarkson’s hand, and it was evidence that she did not shoot herself. Fidler ultimately ruled that Lee had hidden or destroyed evidence.

Another well-known forensic expert for the defense, Michael Baden, was accused of having a fundamental bias because his wife, Linda Kenney-Baden, is a member of the defense team and specializes in forensics. Baden introduced a new theory late in the trial that Clark had breathed for several minutes before she died to explain a spot of blood on Spector’s jacket. The defense contended his clothes would have been soaked with blood if he had been holding the gun because she was shot at such close range.

Spector, 67, had a decades-long career as a musician, songwriter and, most of all, record producer, pioneering the so-called Wall of Sound. During the ‘60s, he worked with several bands, notably the Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner and the Ronnettes. Spector married lead singer Ronnie Spector in 1968. Spector made a comeback in 1970 when he was brought in to produce the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and produced albums for John Lennon and George Harrison during their solo careers.

Rumors of Spector’s bizarre behavior, including his obsession with guns, circulated for years. Ronnie Spector, who filed for divorce in 1972, wrote in her memoir that he threatened to kill her if she left him. According to several accounts, Spector threatened Lennon with a gun during a recording session, placed a loaded pistol at Leonard Cohen’s head and forced Dee Dee Ramone to play guitar at gunpoint. Spector’s habit of wearing the outlandish wigs he sported at the trial reportedly dates to the 1970s, following a near-fatal car accident, in which he suffered massive head injuries.

(Wire services contributed to this report.)

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