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Phil Spector Murder Conviction, Sentence Affirmed on Appeal

May 2 (Bloomberg) -- The murder conviction and prison sentence of “wall of sound” music producer Phil Spector for the 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson were upheld by a California appeals court.

Spector, 71, is serving a sentence of 19 years to life at a Corcoran, California, prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder for shooting Clarkson, 40, at his mansion a few hours after they had met at a nightclub where she worked.

The Los Angeles-based appeals court today rejected Spector’s argument that the judge overseeing the trial from October 2008 to April 2009 erred by permitting videotaped evidence from the music producer’s first trial in 2007, which ended with a hung jury. The appeals court also said the lower court properly allowed evidence of Spector’s history of threatening women with guns when he was drunk.

“Spector expressly tried to prove Clarkson had committed suicide, and implicitly raised the alternative defense that she might have shot herself accidentally,” the three-judge panel said. “The other crimes evidence was relevant to disprove these theories about how Clarkson died.”

Spector became famous in the 1960s with his “wall of sound” music recording method. The dense, multilayered productions resulted in hits for the Ronettes, featuring Spector’s former wife Ronnie, the Righteous Brothers and others. He went on to produce the Beatles’ album “Let It Be” and solo projects by John Lennon and George Harrison.

Judge’s Instructions

Dennis Riordan, the lawyer representing Spector in the appeal, said in an e-mailed statement that the trial judge for the first time in the history of criminal trials in the U.S. allowed the prosecution to show the jury video evidence that included the judge himself.

“The trial judge approved of his being made a key part of the prosecution’s case by refusing the defense’s demand that the judge instruct the jury that he was not a witness for either side and that nothing he said or did could be considered as evidence against the defendant,” Riordan said.

The lawyer said he will ask for a new hearing before the court of appeals and, if needed, seek a review by the California Supreme Court.

The case is People v. Spector, B216425, California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District (Los Angeles.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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