Mistrial Declared in Phil Spector Murder Case
LOS ANGELES – In the first tense hours of deliberations, jurors in Phil Spector's murder trial re-enacted the death of Lana Clarkson, trying to duplicate the angle at which she was shot and determine which way her blood splattered.
But the experiment failed to answer all the jury's questions, according to members who described it later. For two panelists, they said, the possibility that the actress committed suicide was never quite erased.
On Wednesday, the jury reported that it was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction, leading the judge to declare a mistrial. Jurors had met for about 44 hours over 12 days since getting the case Sept. 10.
The foreman noted that the "inability to reach a decision is controversial to most."
"Even on the jury there's deep regret that we were unable to reach a unanimous verdict," said the foreman, one of three jurors who spoke to reporters later. None gave their names.
"We would have liked to have a psychological profile of Lana Clarkson," another juror said. "The people who voted not guilty were arguing whether she was suicidal."
Prosecutors said they would seek to retry Spector, and a hearing was set for Oct. 3.
"We will not rest until justice is done," said John C. Taylor, a lawyer for Clarkson's family, which is also pursuing a wrongful death civil trial against Spector.
Jurors said it didn't make a difference to them that the criminal trial involved a celebrity.
There appeared to have been little discussion during deliberations on Spector, 67, who was often described as a music legend during the trial.
"I don't think being a celebrity mattered," one juror said.
What did matter was Clarkson's persona. Clarkson, 40, was a statuesque beauty whose career was on a downward slide when she met Spector at the House of Blues nightclub and went home with him on Feb. 3, 2003. A revolver went off in her mouth; there were no fingerprints.
The defense portrayed Clarkson as suicidal, introducing e-mails she wrote and calling witnesses who said she had talked of ending it all.
The prosecution called women from Spector's past who claimed he threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence.
"The difference may have been she didn't know Mr. Spector," one juror said. "She was a bigger girl and she may have fought back."
The prosecution also called a chauffeur who testified that Spector came out of his home that fateful morning with a gun in hand and said, "I think I killed somebody," while Clarkson's body sat slumped in a foyer chair behind him.
One juror was troubled by what Spector, who did not call 911, did in the 40 minutes between the death and the time police arrived. "He acted like a guilty man," the juror said.
The defense countered with a scientific case, suggesting Spector did not fire the gun and offering forensic evidence that she killed herself — either intentionally or by accident. Gunshot residue on her hands, blood spatter on his coat and the trajectory of the bullet were the subjects of weeks of testimony from experts.
"There were problems with the blood on the shooter's hand," one juror said. "There was not enough blood. ... I think a lot of jurors expected to see more blood, as the defense put it, you know, the bazooka of blood."
Another juror said no single factor played a role in panelists' decisions. "It was the whole tapestry woven for us by the prosecution," he said, noting that he distrusted all of the defense experts, asserting they were paid too much money and seemed to be trying to impress with their credentials.
He said he was satisfied he voted guilty and that "I can look at myself in the mirror tomorrow."
From the first day of deliberations, the panel found itself divided, the three members said. On the first ballot, four jurors voted for conviction, five voted not guilty and three were undecided. A week ago, the foreman had reported a 7-5 split, and the judge ordered them back with new instructions.
There were six ballots in all, with jurors shifting their opinions until Wednesday, when they decided they could do no more. Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler polled the jury and each member agreed that a unanimous decision was not possible.
"At this time, I will find that the jury is unable to arrive at a verdict and declare a mistrial in this matter," Fidler said.
Spector and his wife, Rachelle, left the courthouse shortly thereafter, and his attorneys met with the jury afterward.
"We thank the people of Los Angeles for keeping an open mind and the jury for their very hard work and their willingness to share their thoughts with us," defense attorney Linda Kenney-Baden said following the meeting.
Prosecutors had charged Spector under a second-degree murder theory that did not require premeditation or intent.
Spector rose to fame in the 1960s with the "Wall of Sound" recording technique, which revolutionized pop music. Clarkson starred in the 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen."
Their life stories reflected different sides of the pop culture landscape.
The breadth of Spector's contributions to popular music in the 1960s and early 1970s was astounding. Early in his career, he produced hits including "He's a Rebel" and "Be My Baby," which made pop stars of the Crystals and the Ronettes.
Later, after the Beatles shelved the tapes from some of their last recording sessions, he turned them into their final album, 1970's "Let it Be." From there, he went on to produce critically acclaimed solo albums by John Lennon and George Harrison. He also co-wrote and produced the Ben E. King standard "Spanish Harlem" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," cited by BMI as the most-played song in the history of American radio.
But by the time he met Clarkson, the music industry wunderkind who struck it rich in his teens and changed the face of pop music had aged into an eccentric, reclusive millionaire with a castle in the suburbs.
Clarkson was an ambitious dreamer who idolized Marilyn Monroe and chased fame but was beaten down by rejection. Friends testified that she was at the end of her rope financially and humiliated by having to take the hostess job where she met Spector.
Jurors heard of her decision to go home with Spector for a drink after the club closed at 2 a.m. Little more than three hours later, she was dead.