Legendary rock music producer Phil Spector walked out of a Los Angeles courthouse today when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler declared a mistrial. After 12 days of deliberation, the jury said it was still divided 10 to 2 over whether Spector was guilty of second-degree murder in the death of actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra mansion in February 2002. Ten jurors voted to convict and two were holdouts. Spector, 67, could still face a minimum of 15 years in prison since prosecutors have said they will retry him. Jean Rosenbluth, a University of Southern California law professor and an expert on criminal prosecution spoke to NEWSWEEK contributor Nomi Morris about the hung verdict. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What happens next?
Jean Rosenbluth: It's 99.9 percent sure that there will be a retrial. It's possible the prosecutor will want to avoid another five-month trial and may try to get him to plead to a lesser charge. The issue there is that Phil Spector has made it very clear that he does not want to go to jail, and the D.A. is unlikely to accept any sort of deal that doesn't include jail time.
Can he get a fair trial, given how much publicity there has already been about this case?
I personally am of the view that just because a juror has heard things about a case doesn't mean that the juror can't be fair.
How common are hung juries in murder cases?
It happens fairly often. There was just a case where the D.A. retried somebody four times before they got a conviction. In the Mendendez brothers case there was a hung jury with both of them the first time round, and they had two separate juries. And then the second time around they were convicted fairly quickly.
Do you think there is any more pressure on the prosecution or the judges because it looks to the public like yet another celebrity that hasn't been convicted?
There were legitimate reasons why in those other cases the person was acquitted. In all of them the prosecution's witnesses had real problems, and that didn't exist here. One could say that perhaps money bought Spector the trial, because he was able to throw so much information at the jury, brought in so many experts and investigators that he was able to throw up reasonable doubt in at least a couple folks.
What would you say was the most unusual aspect of this trial?
It was the parade of women who testified about prior incidents with Spector, in which he used a gun when they were romantically involved with him and they were trying to leave. It's very, very unusual for a prosecutor to have even one or two prior incidents, and here there were five. Not only were there five, but there were 14 that the prosecutors tried to get in and couldn't. That was really unusual, to have that solid block of pattern evidence like that.