- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) | Rock music producer Phil Spector was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a film actress at his mansion six years ago.

A Superior Court jury returned the verdict after an estimated 29 to 30 hours of deliberations. The jury had the option of choosing involuntary manslaughter, but did not do so.

Spector exhibited no reaction to the verdict. His attorney argued that he should remain free on bail pending the May 29 sentencing, but Judge Larry Paul Fidler remanded him to jail immediately.

Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison.

Spector's young wife, Rachelle, sobbed as the decision was announced.

Lana Clarkson, star of the 1985 cult film “Barbarian Queen,” died of a gunshot fired in her mouth as she sat in the foyer of Spector's mansion in 2003. She met Spector only hours earlier at her job as a nightclub hostess.

Prosecutors argued that Spector had a history of threatening women with guns when they tried to leave his presence.

The defense claimed she killed herself.

It was Spector's second trial. His first jury deadlocked 10-2, favoring conviction in 2007.

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.”

Spector, 69, who had long lived in seclusion at his suburban Alhambra “castle,” was out on the town in Hollywood when he met Miss Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003, at the House of Blues. The tall, blond actress, recently turned 40 and unable to find acting work, had taken a job as a hostess. When the club closed in the wee hours, she accepted a chauffeured ride to Spector's home for a drink. Three hours later, she was dead.

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.”

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg disputed whether the chauffeur remembered the words accurately. In closing arguments, Mr. Weinberg listed 14 points of forensic evidence including blood spatter, gunshot residue and DNA, which he said were proof of a self-inflicted wound.

“It's very difficult to put a gun in somebody's mouth,” he said.

“Every single fact says this is a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Mr. Weinberg argued. “How do you ignore it? How do you say this could have been a homicide?”

But prosecutors portrayed Spector as a dangerous man who became a “demonic maniac” when he drank and had a history of threatening women with guns. They also contended that blood spatter evidence proved that Miss Clarkson could not have shot herself.

As in the first trial, they presented testimony from five women who told of being threatened by a drunken Spector, even held hostage in his home, with a gun pointed at them and threats of death if they tried to leave. The parallels with the night Miss Clarkson died were chilling even if the stories were very old - 31 years in one instance.

Miss Clarkson's mother and sister sat through both trials, and Spector's wife sat across the courtroom from them.

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