Phil Spector Gets 19-to-Life

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Legendary music producer Phil Spector was sentenced Friday to 19 years to life in prison for killing actress and House of Blues VIP hostess Lana Clarkson in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion more than six years ago.

    Spector did not speak on his own behalf during his sentencing at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse, but defense attorney Doron Weinberg -- while extending sympathy to the victim's family -- maintained that his client "did not kill Lana Clarkson."

    Phil Spector Awaits Sentence (RAW)

    [LA] Phil Spector Awaits Sentence (RAW)
    Music producer Phil Spector waits for his sentence from a Los Angeles judge. (Published Friday, May 29, 2009)

    At the conclusion of his second trial, the 69-year-old record industry figure was convicted April 13 of second-degree murder for the 40-year-old woman's Feb. 3, 2003, shooting death. The first jury to hear the case against him deadlocked 10-2 in favor of guilt in September 2007.

    With jurors from both trials looking on in a packed courtroom, Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler ordered Spector to serve 15 years to life -- the mandatory term on the second-degree murder charge -- and an additional four-year term for using a gun in the commission of the crime.

    The judge also denied the defense attorney's oral motion for a new trial. Weinberg said he was making the motion "in an abundance of caution based on all of the erroneous rulings that the court made during the trial."

    In an emotional statement to the judge, the victim's mother said, "More than six years ago, February 3rd, 2003, Lana was taken from us. No one should suffer the loss of a child. It's not the normal way we expect life to go. Since that day, I've prayed for the truth to be told. I've prayed for the faith and strength to endure the process."

    Donna Clarkson said the "overwhelming sense of loss" of her daughter's death was "heightened by the trials."

    "The pictures were extremely shocking and painful," she said, noting that family members had kept silent to ensure a fair trial. "All our plans together are destroyed. Now I can only visit her at the cemetery."

    Through his attorney, Spector submitted two cashiers' checks to pay restitution of just more than $16,800 to Clarkson's family and $9,740 to the California Victim Compensation & Government Claims Board for funeral and burial costs and mental health expenses.

    Spector, who has been jailed since the jury's verdict last month, was led back to the courtroom lockup by sheriff's deputies after he was sentenced.

    Spector's attorney -- who has contended that Clarkson shot herself --
    vowed that the conviction will be appealed.

    "He's now 69 years old. His health is not great and all I can tell you is that I hope he doesn't have to serve anywhere near that time," Weinberg said outside court, noting that his client had surgery Wednesday to remove pre-cancerous polyps from his vocal cords.

    After the sentencing, District Attorney Steve Cooley told reporters, "Needless to say, it's been a long time in coming to bring Mr. Spector to justice -- 6 1/2 years."

    Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, who worked on both trials, said it was a "sad day because this marks the end of an odyssey that began with the tragic, senseless murder of Lana Clarkson -- taken from us in her prime." But he called it a "great day for the justice system."

    "With this verdict and this sentence, a message has been sent, I think a very clear message has been sent. If you commit crimes in our communities, if you commit violence against our citizens, we, under the watchful eye of the District Attorney's Office, we will find you, we will prosecute you."

    "And no matter your fame or your wealth or your supposed celebrity, you will stand trial and you will be held accountable for your actions. That is a blind justice system. That's the justice system that is practiced in the courtrooms of this building every single day," Jackson told reporters.

    The prosecutor said he believes the case against Spector is "as rock solid as any prosecution this office has ever undertaken," noting that he believes that "there is nothing that's a question mark in my mind, certainly, for an appeal."

    Spector's attorney countered, "We believe, that as a legal matter, the appeal is extremely strong."       

    The defense has long contested the admissibility of the testimony of five women who contend they were involved in gun-related incidents with Spector years before Clarkson was shot to death.

    "Even though we believe that a number of those circumstances never occurred at all and others were exaggerated, nonetheless, the entire case started with several weeks of hearing about Mr. Spector's apparent bad character and violent inclinations. And it's a little hard to step up from that," Weinberg said.

    Spector's wife, Rachelle, said her husband was "tried in the court of public opinion rather than in the courtroom," calling it "a grave miscarriage of justice."

    "And from this point forward, my main focus and my main goal is to prove my husband's innocence, regain his honor and everything he has worked his entire life for," she told reporters.

    Rachelle Spector said her husband had been portrayed as a "monster," though she said "he is the most kind and gentle and giving and wonderful man that I've ever met in my entire life."

    "... I'm going to stand by him and get him out of that awful place so he can come home where he belongs," she said.

    Spector and Clarkson had met just hours earlier at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she had recently begun working as a VIP hostess.

    Spector was charged on Nov. 20, 2003, with the murder, and then indicted in September 2004 on the same charge.

    Spector is still facing a civil wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Clarkson's family.

    Spector, renowned in music circles for the "Wall of Sound" technique he developed in the 1960s and used in his work with the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers and other groups, wrote or co-wrote such enduring hits as "Be My Baby" and "River Deep, Mountain High."

    Clarkson, who was best known for her starring role in the 1985 Roger Corman cult hit "Barbarian Queen," had bit parts on dozens of television shows and in a few well-known movies, such as 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."