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Spector jurors get option on verdict

March 21, 2009|Harriet Ryan

When jurors begin deliberating charges against Phil Spector next week, they will have a choice the panelists at the music producer's first murder trial didn't: manslaughter.

Over the strenuous objections of Spector's defense, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said Friday that jurors will have the option of convicting the 69-year-old of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson instead of the top count, second-degree murder. In 2007, a jury deadlocked on that count 10 to 2 in favor of conviction.

Clarkson was found dead in the foyer of Spector's Alhambra mansion six years ago. His defense contends that she killed herself. Prosecutors say Spector shot her.

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg told the judge that the ruling was "absolutely erroneous" and predicted that it would confuse the jury. He said it was "an invitation to compromise" if panelists split on the murder count.

The judge acknowledged that neither theory presented in the five-month trial suggested involuntary manslaughter, but he said it was possible a juror might interpret the evidence in a way that pointed toward manslaughter. Case law, he said, left him no choice. Closing arguments are set for Monday morning.

-- Harriet Ryan

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