Thursday, September 20, 2007

The latest turn in the Phil Spector trial

It’s looking like all or nothing for Phil Spector.

The music producer, accused of murdering actress Lana Clarkson, is on trial for second-degree murder. The prosecutors say Spector killed Clarkson while Spector said Clarkson killed herself (whether accidentally or intentionally).

The jury, earlier this week, was locked up at 7-5. Is it 7 for guilty and 5 for innocent or 7 for innocent and five for guilty? Don’t know. The jury’s not saying. They told the judge they were deadlocked.

Judge Larry Paul Fidler, who’s presiding over the case, rejected Spector’s attorney’s request for a mistrial and said on Tuesday that they could consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Now, the judge has said he will withdraw this instruction because, as BBC News reported, “…it misreads US law.”

Now, according to the story, jurors now “…no longer have to conclude that Mr. Spector held a gun to Lana Clarkson’s mouth before the weapon fired to find him guilty.”

Which way will the jury go? Not a clue. If there’s a hung jury and a mistrial, my limited understanding of law tells me that Spector can either be retried or he will go free. Sometimes, a mistrial is just as good as an acquittal. There are exceptions; John Gotti Jr. was tried thrice on racketeering charges. After three hung juries, prosecutors finally decided not to retry Junior.

There are two things I speculate will happen in this case. One, if Spector is convicted, he will appeal. With this crazy turn of events, that’s automatic now. Two, if Spector is acquitted, Clarkson’s family will almost certainly sue him for wrongful death. And again, because Spector is probably worth several hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s probably something he can live with. Clarkson wasn’t an A-List actress, so it probably won’t dent Spector’s pocketbook too much.

(Photo of Judge Fidler courtesy of AP)

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