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Spector jailed for 19 years

Legendary music producer Phil Spector is sentenced to 19 years to life in prison after being found guilty of murder.

Music producer Phil Spector, left, and his attorney Dennis Riordan, in court Friday. Spector's defence team say they will appeal the verdict.
Music producer Phil Spector, left, and his attorney Dennis Riordan, in court Friday. Spector's defence team say they will appeal the verdict.

Legendary music producer Phil Spector was sentenced Friday to 19 years to life in prison after being found guilty of murdering an actress at his Los Angeles mansion six years ago. Los Angeles superior court judge Larry Paul Fidler sentenced 69-year-old Spector to 15 years in prison for second-degree murder, plus another four years enhancement for personal use of a gun. Spector, who created the famed "Wall of Sound" recording technique during the 1960s, was charged for the 2003 killing of Lana Clarkson, best known for her role in the 1985 cult film "The Barbarian Queen".

He is not eligible for parole until 2028, and if he is not freed then, then under California law his sentence will become a life term. Ms Clarkson's mother, Donna, fought back tears while reading a brief statement to reporters that did not directly address Spector or the murder. Ms Clarkson, 40, was found slumped in a chair with a gunshot wound to the head in Spector's castle-like home on February 3, 2003, only hours after meeting the producer for the first time at the nightclub where she worked.

As Fidler read the verdict, Spector, wearing a dark pinstripe suit with a white shirt and a red silk tie, showed no reaction. His defence lawyer Doron Weinberg, who repeatedly claimed his client was innocent, said he would appeal. "My reaction is 'Oh my God'," said Spector's 28-year-old wife, Rachelle. "My husband was tried in the court of public opinion, not in a court of law. "My main purpose is to prove my husband's innocence and regain his honour," said the petite, dyed blonde. "This is a sad day for everybody - not just for Lana Clarkson's family who lost a daughter, but I've also lost my husband and my best friend."

During Spector's retrial, defence lawyers said Ms Clarkson, whose career had stalled around the time of her death, had killed herself. Spector is regarded as one of the most influential figures in pop music history. In the early 1960s, he scored hits including "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Be My Baby, Baby" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin". But during his two murder trials, prosecutors said Spector, who was famed for his work with The Beatles, Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes and The Ramones, had a more sinister side.

Deputy district lawyer Alan Jackson painted a picture of the music icon as a gun-crazed eccentric with a "history of violence" toward women who tried to leave him. "Are you asking if I feel sorry for him? Not one whit," Mr Jackson said after the verdict was reached last month. "He's getting exactly what he deserves. It feels especially good that no other women are going to suffer at the hands of Phil Spector."

Five female acquaintances had testified that Spector threatened them at gunpoint in incidents dating back to the 1970s. Spector's former chauffeur also gave damaging evidence, telling jurors that on the night of the shooting, his employer had emerged from a doorway clutching a pistol in a bloodied hand, saying: "I think I killed somebody." Only weeks before Ms Clarkson's killing, Spector gave a rare interview in which he described himself as "relatively insane".

Asked if Spector had ever been violent towards her, his wife Rachelle said "I don't want to comment." Defence lawyers however argued there was no forensic evidence to convict Spector, pointing to the absence of gunshot residue on his hands and clothing. In his sentencing recommendation however, prosecutor Jackson accused Spector of "pulling guns on women for decades" and gave a graphic description of how police believe Ms Clarkson was killed.

"Spector had pulled a loaded gun from the bureau drawer and threatened Lana with it as she attempted to leave the residence," Jackson wrote. "As Lana was seated in a chair by the back door with her purse slung on her right shoulder Spector produced the gun, the end result of which was Lana being shot through the mouth as she recoiled in fear." * AFP