Monday, April 20, 2009
THE CASE AGAINST PHIL SPECTOR
by Rachel Linhart
Television producer extraordinaire and one of IRT's good friends from high school, Rachel Cawein-Linhart, has been obsessively following the murder trial of fallen rock 'n' roll production icon Phil Spector from the moment of the opening statements. Here is her assessment of last week's verdict.
Guilty. 2nd Degree murder. Today in Los Angeles, a city where justice and celebrity don’t always live together amicably, Phil Spector was convicted of murdering an actress in his home six years ago.
Shocking – the little man with a big reputation for pointing guns at people finally killed someone. It was only a matter of time. Music fans are already familiar with the legend of Phil Spector – He fired a gun into the ceiling during a session with John Lennon…He held a gun to Dee Dee’s head during a contentious recording session with The Ramones. When situations couldn’t be swung his way with manipulation, he let his firearms do the talking. Only this time someone ended up dead.
The facts? Spector – on various medications, drunk, picks up a middle-aged but still gorgeous actress who’s taken a night job as a hostess at the House of Blues. After closing, they ride in his limo to his “castle.” A few hours later, the driver hears a gunshot. Moments later, Spector emerges, gun in hand, saying “I think I killed somebody…” Cops show up, taser him, and haul him to the station where he becomes belligerent. He rails about his influence and contacts in the police department, how he’ll have all their badges, and refers to the victim as “a piece of shit.” The piece of shit was found slumped in a chair near his back door with her purse over her shoulder and a hole blown out the back of her head from the gun fired in her mouth. The gun, wiped clean and (presumably) placed next to her after the fact, was registered to Spector and came from the holster found in one of his drawers. Spector’s defense? Lana Clarkson, a woman he’d met for the first time a mere hours before, had chosen this time/place/weapon to kill herself.
His first trial, which started in May 2007, was entertainment of the highest order. CourtTV was on hand to cover it all. 5 women testified that Spector had threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence. Prosecutor Alan Jackson built a solid and logical case while Spector’s top-of-the-line attorneys acted like crazy people – Bruce Cutler yelled at and bullied witnesses on the stand then disappeared to shoot a pilot for his own judge show. Linda Kenney Baden spent the first few weeks with her arms perpetually draped around Spector’s shoulders, like some sort of murder trial hospice nurse. They hired the best forensic experts, who all then promptly made complete fools of themselves on the stand and, in the case of Dr. Henry Lee, permanently damaged their professional reputations. The current Mrs. Spector (a vulgar young chippie with aspirations of a singing career who was formerly his assistant’s assistant) also sass-talked Judge Fidler in open court. It ended in a hung jury because one man, the foreman, took the term “reasonable doubt” to mean “any possible shadow of a sliver of a thought of a doubt.” He convinced another suggestible juror to vote with him. On arriving home that day, Phil’s trophy wife humped his reptilian body like a lap dancer in their driveway for the benefit of the new choppers above rolling tape. Classy.
His second trial had significantly less coverage – the only people I know of who covered (close to) every day was the LA Times and the excellent trial blog Trials and Tribulations (http://sprocket-trials.blogspot.com/). The prosecution team was unchanged, but the defense team only included one attorney from the first trial. Many of the highly compensated gun-for-hire forensic experts were replaced. These proceedings bore none of the melodrama of the first trial. It did feature endless objections and nitpicking legal motions, presumably all raised in the hopes of creating grounds for appeal if he were convicted.
So why did this jury so handily send the boy genius 1964 to the clink? I believe the key is the 2nd degree charge. This was not offered to the jury in the previous trial. They chose between 1st degree murder and acquittal. This time around there was a third choice – a lesser charge. This was the right choice morally, although not legally. Let’s look at this case through the crystal ball of “what probably happened.” What probably happened was that Lana Clarkson met Phil Spector and went back to his place because she, like all of us in the entertainment industry, relies on her contacts to get her work, and having Phil in your address book has good to be useful. They drink some tequila (fact), he takes some Viagra (fact), he put the moves on her (his DNA was found on her breast), she decides to cool things off (because who wants to sleep with HIM?) and head home. He tries to convince her to stay, when that doesn’t work out, he introduces her to his handgun. I don’t believe for a minute that he set out that night to kill anyone. I don’t even believe he intended to kill her when he pointed the gun at her. It was clearly an accident. The trouble for Phil is, when you do something as reckless as aiming a gun you know is loaded at someone, it’s considered malice and therefore murder. But no matter, the LA district attorney, Lana’s family, and I will all accept 2nd degree as justice.
So what’s next for Spector? He’ll spend his first night behind bars tonight. Sentencing is scheduled for May 29th. He faces 15 years – life. But let’s face it – he’s 69. Anything is a life sentence.
Now my big question is – who will be coming out of the woodwork now that he’s been convicted? Ex-wife Ronnie Spector has been zip-lipped for the last 6 years. Her book “Be My Baby” is worth a read. She literally fled from their marriage barefoot and terrified. I cannot wait to hear what she has to say about all this.
Sadly for Phil, this will not be the last time he’s inside a courtroom. Ronnie, Darlene and a number of other female artists are suing him for back royalties. The hotel his legal team lived in for months the first time around is suing him for the bill he skipped out on. And Lana’s mother has a civil suit pending against him for her death.
To quote John Lennon, from the song that Phil produced for him… “Instant karma’s gonna get you / Gonna look you right in the face…”
Raw Footage of Phil Spector Trial from Associated Press:
Phil Spector's Wall of Sound: