- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jurors in Phil Spector’s retrial can consider the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter instead of second-degree murder in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, a judge ruled Friday.

Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler reversed course from his earlier decision in the music producer’s first trial where he refused to instruct the jury that it could consider voluntary or involuntary manslaughter against Spector. That jury deadlocked 10-2 with the majority favoring conviction on second-degree murder.

Spector, 68, is accused of fatally shooting Clarkson at his home in 2003. The defense has said Clarkson, an actress who starred in the cult film “Barbarian Queen,” killed herself.

The judge acknowledged that both arguments by prosecutors the defense did not suggest involuntary manslaughter, but he thought it was possible a juror could interpret the evidence pointed toward the lesser charge.

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg objected to Fidler’s ruling, saying it would confuse the jury and that there was “not a shred of factual or legal support” for involuntary manslaughter.

District attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the judge made the ruling after prosecutors brought to his attention a precedent that allows him to give an alternative to jurors. She said they did not ask for the ruling.

“We are proceeding on the theory of second-degree murder, as we always have, and that’s what we will be arguing,” Gibbons said.

Closing arguments in the retrial were scheduled Monday.

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