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Harmonious jury made the difference in Spector's conviction

April 15, 2009|Harriet Ryan
  • Of the jury that convicted Phil Spector, his lawyer said: ?I don?t think these people were willing to fight each other. They wanted to come to a consensus.?
Of the jury that convicted Phil Spector, his lawyer said: ?I don?t think… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Opposing attorneys agreed on little during Phil Spector's six-month murder retrial. But Tuesday, the day after the music producer's conviction, the lawyers reached the same conclusion about why the outcome was so different from the first trial: the jury.

Jurors in Spector's first trial in 2007 spent a dozen days in contentious deliberations before announcing that they were hopelessly deadlocked. Relying on mostly the same witnesses and exhibits, the jury in the retrial convicted him after nine days of deliberations apparently marked by little if any discord.

There was "nothing and everything" different in the trials, said a prosecutor who tried both cases.

"Nothing in that it was the same evidence presented to both juries, but everything because they were different people," Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson said.

Spector's attorney agreed.

"The principal difference this time was the jury," said Doron Weinberg.

Spector is jailed pending his May sentencing. A judge is expected to sentence him to a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole after at least 18 years.

The route the jurors followed to arrive at a conviction remains something of a mystery. Only the forewoman has spoken publicly, and her brief remarks at a news conference were vague. But those involved in the case say she may have revealed the most crucial difference between the panel and its predecessor when she broke down in tears while praising her fellow jurors' unity and dedication.

"I don't think these people were willing to fight each other," Weinberg said. "They wanted to come to a consensus."

The panel that convicted the 69-year-old Spector gelled, while the 2007 jury that hung fractured. The foreman in that case voted not guilty in the face of 10 colleagues who insisted that prosecutors had proved Spector guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson. Another juror vacillated and ultimately voted with the foreman.

The hung jury was a searing defeat for prosecutors. Spector remained free on $1-million bail during the six years the case played out. He lived in his mansion and even got married. Although Spector's defense had argued for an acquittal, his attorney acknowledged Tuesday that a more realistic goal for the retrial was a second deadlock.

Spector was accused of inviting Clarkson back to his 30-room residence for a late-night drink and then placing a snub-nosed revolver in her mouth and pulling the trigger when she tried to curtail the liaison. His defense claimed the shooting was suicide.

"The visceral parts of this case are really too strong to allow an acquittal, so it's really a case that should end in a hung jury. But you need people who will stand by their principles," Weinberg said.

The first trial had those "very strong and principled people," but the second case did not, the lawyer said.

When jury selection began last fall, the prosecution vowed to avoid jurors like the previous foreman. Jackson said he believed that the juror -- who did not return calls seeking comment -- got hung up on details and missed the larger picture. He was an engineer who filled more than a dozen notebooks during the trial.

For the next jury, the prosecutor said, "I wanted common sense to be just dripping off the panel, as opposed to over-analysis."

Howard Varinsky, the jury consultant who helped prosecutors pick the panel, said they steered clear of anyone who seemed "persnickety or super-detailed."

The final jury of six men and six women included analytical minds -- a research scientist and a retired engineer -- but no one who struck Varinsky as a loner.

During the five months of testimony, both sides noticed the jurors treating one another more and more as friends or family. They celebrated birthdays and laughed uproariously during lunch breaks. When one panelist had a cold, the forewoman fetched her a cough drop.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Truc Do said the developments heartened her.

"That doesn't say which way they are going to go, but it tells you this is a group that will work together," she said.

Weinberg said that some jurors struck him in jury selection as being particularly open to the defense but that the dishes of shared food and the budding friendships were not fertile ground for individual jurors to reject the majority view.

"The people who thought the evidence wasn't there allowed themselves to be convinced," Weinberg said.

But Jackson said the cohesion allowed jurors to focus on "the forest and not the trees."

"We had a more reasonable jury this time," he said.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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