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Spector jury's choices limited

The judge rules that second-degree murder is the sole charge the panelists can consider.

August 30, 2007|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

Jurors can consider only one charge -- second-degree murder -- when they decide whether legendary music producer Phil Spector shot and killed an actress he took home to his mansion more than four years ago.

Finalizing the instructions that will be presented to the jury, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler concluded Wednesday that the evidence presented at trial did not allow the 12 men and women deciding Spector's fate to consider a lesser charge of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Spector, 67, is accused of killing Lana Clarkson, 40, when she tried to leave his sprawling Alhambra home Feb. 3, 2003. He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have alleged that Clarkson shot herself in a tragic move precipitated by despair over money problems and a failing career.

The defense asked Fidler to rule out the possibility that Spector could be convicted of a lesser crime; the prosecutors did not object.

"We feel very strongly about the evidence in this case," Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said after Wednesday's hearing.

One of Spector's attorneys, Roger Rosen, told reporters he believes it likely that, with only the single charge to consider, the jury will have a shorter time in deliberations. But he declined to speculate on whether the judge's ruling would make jurors more or less likely to acquit Spector or end up deadlocked.

The judge also said he would permit the jury to hear about two controversies that occurred during the trial with key defense witnesses, forensic pathologist Michael Baden and renowned criminalist Henry C. Lee, and their testimony or handling of evidence.

Both sides are due back in court Wednesday, when closing arguments are scheduled to begin.

If convicted, Spector faces a sentence of 15 years to life. According to the district attorney's office, he also would have to serve 85% of his sentence before he would be eligible for a parole hearing.

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greg.krikorian@latimes.com

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