Music producer Phil Spector was facing a lengthy jail term today after being convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson.
A jury in the five-month retrial of the 68-year-old legend unanimously convicted him yesterday of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment.
Clarkson, 40, died of a gunshot fired into her mouth while seated in the foyer of Spector’s hill-top mansion in 2003.
The producer – famous for his “Wall of Sound” recording technique – had denied the charge and was gaunt and quiet as the verdict was read out in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
He was remanded in custody until sentencing on May 29 and his lawyer said he planned to appeal.
Second-degree murder falls between first degree murder, which requires proof of pre-meditation, and manslaughter.
Judge Larry Fidler said: “In Mr Spector’s favour is the fact he has made all his appearances throughout the two trials.”
But he said his conviction and history of violence weighed against that, adding: “Public protection and public safety are paramount.”
Spector looked frail and yawned as he entered the courtroom to learn his fate. He was wearing a black suit and a red tie with a red silk handkerchief in the pocket.
The jury of six men and six women had deliberated for around 30 hours before pronouncing him guilty.
Spector – who worked with the likes of the Beatles, The Righteous Brothers and Tina Turner – spoke only to whisper “Yes” in agreement to the date of sentence. His wife Rachelle sobbed and left court with a bodyguard.
Clarkson was murdered on February 3, 2003, hours after meeting Spector at the House of Blues nightclub.
The actress and bar hostess was killed in the early hours of the next morning by a single gunshot to the mouth in the foyer of the producer’s mansion.
Two successive juries heard testimony from Spector’s driver claiming Spector emerged from the house brandishing a gun and saying: “I think I killed someone.”
But his lawyers maintained Clarkson committed suicide. In an magazine interview, Spector said she “kissed the gun” before pulling the trigger herself.
The first trial was ended in 2007 after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision required under law. They were stuck at 10 to two in favour of a conviction.
Yesterday’s verdict came after two-and-a-half weeks of stop-start deliberations by the jury. Unlike in the first trial they were offered the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, but opted against it.
Spector rose to fame his through work with a steady stream of high-profile musicians, and ended up producing the Beatles’ final album 'Let It Be'.
But away from the studio he was seen as an eccentric and reclusive star.
During the trials, prosecution lawyers also painted him as a violent man with a gun obsession.
They brought forward a string of women who claimed they had been threatened by Spector.
The woman he killed was a B-film actress, best known for her part in the 1985 cult film 'Barbarian Queen'.
Spector’s lawyers had argued that she had a list of personal problems that led to her suicide.
Clarkson’s relatives were “pleased” with the verdict, their spokesman told reporters.
With the actress’s mother Donna standing by him, lawyer John Taylor said: “The family is pleased the jury rejected the distortion and trashing of Lana Clarkson’s life.”
He added: “Actions have consequences and Phil Spector has to face the consequences of his actions.
“There is no joy here today. It is a tragedy,” he said, before thanking those involved in the case.
Defence lawyer Doron Weinberg said his team had “every intention” of seeking an appeal following the verdict.
While he said he had “an enormous amount of respect for the jury”, he told reporters: “I do not think justice has been done today”.
Spector, he said, took the verdict “very stoically”.
“He heard the verdict, accepted it, wanted to know what was next.
“He is not a young man and he is not in good health and I think he was dealing with this very difficult process with as much equanimity as he could.
“He conducted himself with great dignity.”
Jennifer Barringer, the defence lawyer who sat with Spector throughout both trials, added that the music producer was “an extraordinarily bright man”, now well-educated in legal matters, who was “certainly disappointed” with the verdict.
When asked about the emotional mask he seemed to wear during the trial, she said: “He displayed not so much of a masking as a grace.”