Monday, August 31, 2009

Phil Spector

The boy genius has given way to the convicted murderer.

Phil Spector, the legendary record producer, eccentric and recluse with a reputation for building walls around people as much as his signature music, was found guilty of second-degree murder by Los Angeles jurors today in the 2003 shooting death of cult-movie star Lana Clarkson.

Emotions occasionally spiked at the courthouse: Spector's wife Rachelle sobbed; the jury forewoman broke down at a post-verdict press conference; prosecutors spoke of justice served. Spector, however, was described in reports as seeming unmoved.

The 69-year-old Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, who was taken immediately into custody, faces up to life in prison when sentenced May 29.

This was Spector's second judgment day on the Clarkson case. In 2007, a jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Spector.

At the second trial as at the first, prosecutors said Clarkson fell victim to a man who had a history of waving guns at, and acting violently toward, women, especially when he'd been drinking. Spector's defense argued she shot herself.

There was one new twist at the new trial, but it ended up being a nonfactor, unfortunately for Spector.

At this trial, jurors had the option of convicting Spector of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. They not only didn't take the option, they also convicted the former hitmaker of using a gun while committing a crime.

The jury forewoman, whose name was not disclosed, told reporters deliberations were "painful." "We all have hearts," she said. "We all have people we love."

For L.A. prosecutors, the guilty verdicts were a welcome change. They previously failed to win convictions against celebrity murder defendants O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake.

Spector's fame dates back to 1958, when, at age 19, he wrote and sang his way to No. 1 on the chart with "To Know Him Is to Love Him."

As a young producer, Spector dominated the pre-Beatles 1960s with hit ("He's a Rebel") after hit ("Da Doo Ron Ron") after hit ("Be My Baby"). The songs were predominantly recorded by girl groups and were exclusively backed by the aural sensation known as the "Wall of Sound." Spector's magic touch continued through the 1960s, with "Unchained Melody," the Beatles Let It Be, John Lennon's "Imagine" and George Harrison "My Sweet Lord," among other standouts.

But over the past 30-40 years, Spector's fame gave way to a kind of infamy—the mad genius who, per lore, pulled gun on Lennon and the Ramones, or who, per Ronnie Spector, of the Spector creation the Ronettes, treated her more as a captive than wife during their troubled marriage.

Spector's alleged gun-waving ways caught up to him at trial, if not on night of Clarkson's death at his Alhambra, Calif., castle-style home. At Spector's first trial, five women testified about being at the other end of a gun drawn by Spector. Their testimony was allowed to be introduced in the new trial.

Spector and Clarkson, the queen of Roger Corman's Barbarian Queen movies, met Feb. 3, 2003, at L.A's House of Blues, where the 40-year-old Clarkson worked as a hostess and where Spector visited shortly after midnight.

About five hours later, after the pair was driven to Spector's home, Spector walked out of his mansion, and, per testimony at the first trial, told his driver: "I think I killed somebody."