September 26

This Day in History

Crime

Sep 26, 2007:

Mistrial declared in Phil Spector murder case

Music producer Phil Spector's trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson ends in a mistrial when the jury cannot come to a unanimous verdict.

On February 3, 2003, police responded to a 911 call and found the 40-year-old Clarkson dead of a gunshot wound to the mouth in the foyer of Spector's mansion in Alahambra, California. Spector, who pioneered the "Wall of Sound" production technique in the 1960s and worked with numerous top musicians, including the Beatles and Ike and Tina Turner, met Clarkson earlier that night at The House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she was a hostess. Clarkson, who had appeared in various B movies, agreed to go back to his home that night for a drink. The legendary record producer, then 63, had a reputation for carrying guns and being eccentric and domineering.

Spector was arrested and then freed on $1 million bail. In September 2004, he was indicted for second-degree murder. Jury selection began in March 2007, with opening statements the following month. During the trial prosecutors argued that Spector shot Clarkson because she resisted his advances. The prosecution put a series of women on the stand who testified that Spector had threatened them with guns in the past. Spector's chauffeur, who had driven his boss and Clarkson back to the mansion that night and was waiting in the car when the gun went off in the house, testified that Spector came outside with a gun in his hand and told him, "I think I just killed somebody."

The defense claimed Clarkson, depressed about her career and struggling with money problems, had shot herself, perhaps accidentally. There was no forensic evidence to prove Spector had held the gun, although there was a spray of blood on his clothing. The defense argued the blood pattern showed Spector was too far away to have shot Clarkson. Throughout the trial, Spector sported a range of dramatic hairstyles and was accompanied to court by bodyguards and his much younger new wife, who he married in September 2006. On September 18, 2007, after deliberating for a week, the jury came back deadlocked, 7-5. However, Judge Larry Paul Fidler refused to grant an immediate mistrial and instead gave the jurors new instructions and ordered them to resume deliberations. The jury returned on September 26 to report they were still deadlocked, 10-2, with the majority voting to convict Spector.

Shortly after Judge Fidler declared a mistrial in the case, the Los Angeles Country Distict Attorney's Office announced plans to seek a retrial. Spector was convicted of murder in 2009 and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.

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