Record producer Spector is charged with murder

Actress was shot to death at his LA home in Feb.

November 21, 2003|By Anna Gorman and Randy Lewis | Anna Gorman and Randy Lewis,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - Famed rock music producer Phil Spector was charged yesterday with murdering an aspiring actress in his hilltop mansion in February.

After the shooting, Spector told his chauffeur, "I think I killed somebody," according to a police report of the killing. Spector was carrying a handgun, the chauffeur told police.

The partial report, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, provides new details about the death of Lana Clarkson, 40, an actress and nightclub hostess, which Spector in an earlier interview attributed to suicide.

The chauffeur, identified only as Souza, said he heard a "boom" and went to the back door, where he saw the victim, whose face was bloody, sitting on a chair just inside, according to the report. He told investigators he thought he saw blood on Spector's hands but was not completely sure.

Police found the lifeless body of Clarkson on the chair, with one gunshot wound to the head and neck, authorities said.

Spector, famed for his work with the Beatles and the Righteous Brothers, has been free on $1 million bail since he was arrested shortly after her death. He faces one count of murder and an allegation that he used a handgun in the slaying, charges that could bring him a sentence of life in state prison.

Through his attorney, Spector pleaded not guilty yesterday during a brief hearing at the Alhambra courthouse. Spector agreed to return to court Jan. 23 and said only, "Yes, your honor," when asked whether he waived his right to a speedy trial.

Three members of Clarkson's family were in the courtroom during the hearing, but declined to comment.

Spector's attorney, Robert Shapiro, said in a written statement: "We have assembled a team of scientific experts which is among the most respected and prestigious in the world. Based on this team's findings of this horrible human event, any jury will conclude that Phil Spector is not guilty."

Prosecutors said they plan to try Spector on a theory of implied malice, alleging that he acted in such an "inherently dangerous" way that he can be held responsible for murder. "We believe that the conduct by Mr. Spector justifies the charges we filed," said Deputy District Attorney Kevin McCormick.

Spector's friends were saddened by the district attorney's decision and still believe that there is some explanation other than murder.

"I just think it's awful," Spector's longtime friend and veteran record industry publicist Bob Merlis said yesterday. "It was terrible when we heard about this in February, and it's terrible today. I'm hoping that something comes out in court that will explain this and exonerate him."

Spector is best known for his 1960s hits that included "Be My Baby" and "Da Doo Ron Ron" and for his layered "Wall of Sound" recording technique, a symphonic approach to pop.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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