Apr 13, 2009

Phil Spector Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder of Actress Lana Clarkson

After months of trial and 9 days of deliberation, a jury convicted music legend Phil Spector of the 2nd degree murder of Lana Clarkson. Spector was convicted of killing Ms. Clarkson in February 2003, just a few hours after they'd met in a nightclub and gone to his home.

The prosecution's evidence was strong. Spector's house was filled with guns, he'd previously exhibited guns during violent efforts to coerce other young women to have sex with him, he'd been drinking heavily on the night of the killing, and moments after Ms. Clarkson was shot, Spector told his limo driver that he'd shot someone.  

The defense's case failed my smell test.  Spector's claim was that Ms.Clarkson found one of his guns and decided that the moment was perfect to commit suicide.  Overlooking for the moment that there was little evidence that Clarkson was seriously depressed or had been trying to kill herself, it doesn't seem reasonable to believe that she would agree to go home with a legendary music producer and then suddenly decide to kill herself. 

By convicting Spector of 2nd rather than 1st degree murder, the jurors evidently accepted that Spector did not invite Ms. Clarkson to his home in order to kill her. The evidence is consistent with a drunken Spector once again becoming enraged when a young woman refused his sexual advances, and then, without regard for whether Ms. Clarkson lived or died, pointed a gun at her and pulled the trigger.  Spector's extreme recklessness, which perhaps took the form of a "game" of Russian Roulette, constitutes "malice aforethought," which is a necessary element of murder.

This was the second time that Spector had been tried for killing Ms. Clarkson. The first trial ended when the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction.  The second jury was explicitly instructed about 2nd degree murder, and this additional option apparently produced the unanimous guilty verdict the second time around.