A half-decade later, Spector case will go on
EmptyThe specter of Phil Spector will haunt Hollywood well into 2008.
On Wednesday, the judge presiding over the legendary "Wall of Sound" producer's murder trial declared a mistrial after jurors indicated they were hopelessly deadlocked, 10-2, in favor of convicting Spector on charges that he killed actress Lana Clarkson more than four years ago.
After the decision, the district attorney's office indicated it would retry Spector.
"We will seek the court's permission to retry the case and begin immediately to prepare for a retrial," District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a statement. A hearing in the case was set for Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney James Blatt said he was not surprised by the district attorney's decision.
"The DA's office didn't receive the result they worked for, what they were hoping for," Blatt said. "I thought they represented a good case the way it was presented. The concern I had was the jury instructions.
"Sometimes it's difficult when you're not a juror to know what they're thinking, and that's why it's so critical for both sides to speak to a jury to know what went wrong or right in their particular decision," said Blatt, who appeared on CourtTV several times during the trial. "You might be doing something that makes sense to you, but not the jury."
A retrial could break the already fragile Spector.
"When you go through the trauma and the anxieties of a criminal case in a fishbowl like Phil Spector did, it's draining psychologically and economically," said attorney Howard Weitzman, whose celebrity clients include Oprah Winfrey, Paris Hilton and Courtney Love. "And the ramifications of having a mistrial declared brings about a whole set of new problems."
Regarding Spector, Weitzman said he faces the question of keeping the same team of lawyers. That involves whether he financially, emotionally and physically can go through another trial, Weitzman said, with other considerations being his chances at the next trial and what to do if the district attorney offers a plea bargain.
"You're talking about an individual who is at a stage in life where imprisonment could be life-threatening, and I'm not sure, given that Phil Spector has gone to the mat once already, he wouldn't do it again," Weitzman said. "I believe any plea bargain that might be offered by the DA's office would be one that would not be acceptable to Mr. Spector."
The mistrial came after months of a trial in which jurors had to decide who pulled the trigger of a revolver -- leaving no fingerprints -- that went off in Clarkson's mouth early Feb. 3, 2003. The jury met for about 44 hours over 12 days after getting the case Sept. 10.
Clarkson, 40, is best known for her small role as the beautiful wife of gangly Mr. Vargas, played by the late Vincent Schiavelli, in the 1982 classic "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Over the years, she played bit roles on TV and in film, including the lead in B-movies "Barbarian Queen" and "Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back."
She met Spector for the first time the night she died while working as a hostess at the House of Blues in Hollywood.
Clarkson returned to Spector's Alhambra "castle" for a drink after the club closed at 2 a.m.
What happened after that is not clear. Spector did not testify and prosecutors gave no motive for him to kill her.
The defense focused on a theory that Clarkson, depressed over the direction her career was taking, committed suicide in the producer's foyer.
Last week, the jury foreman indicated they were deadlocked 7-5. After that, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler withdrew one jury instruction that he found misstated the law and issued another instruction, which gave jurors examples of what they could draw from the evidence, including the scenario that Spector forced Clarkson to put the gun in her mouth.
Two jurors , who would not give their names to reporters, said they voted for guilty.
"He acted like a guilty man," one juror said of Spector's behavior after Clarkson's death, including not calling 911.
Another juror said the holdout jurors argued over whether Clarkson was suicidal. The entire jury would have liked to see a psychological profile of the actress.
The foreman, who declined to say which way he voted, said, "Even on the jury, there's a deep regret that we were unable to reach a unanimous verdict."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.