LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Still maintaining his innocence, music producer Phil Spector was sentenced on Friday to at least 19 years in prison for the 2003 murder of a Hollywood actress and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Spector, 69, who revolutionized pop music in the 1960s with his layered “Wall of Sound” production technique, was convicted in April of second-degree murder after a second trial. The first trial deadlocked in 2007.
Lana Clarkson, 40, a B-movie actress, died of a shot to the mouth, fired from Spector’s gun in the foyer of his mock castle home outside Los Angeles on February 3, 2003. The two met hours earlier at a Hollywood nightclub.
Spector, wearing a black suit and looking pale and tense, showed no emotion when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler sentenced him to 19 years to life in prison.
He must spend 19 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole. At that time, Spector will be 88.
Spector’s defense team immediately filed an appeal. His fourth wife Rachelle Short, 28, a model/actress who Spector quietly married in 2006, said her husband was “very sad and very upset”.
She told reporters that prosecutors at the two long trials had “made him into a monster”. But she said the man she knows is “the most kind and giving and generous man that I have ever met in my life.”
The reclusive producer, who worked with The Ronettes, The Beatles, Cher and Leonard Cohen at the height of his fame, did not testify at either trial. His defense team said in court papers filed this week that Spector insists “he did not kill Lana Clarkson, and he is not responsible for her death.”
But prosecutors claimed Clarkson’s shooting fit a pattern of gun play and violence Spector had displayed toward women for years, saying he had a problem with rage and was “a bully.”
Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson said he was confident the guilty verdict would stand, telling reporters on Friday: “I believe this case is as rock solid as any prosecution this office has ever undertaken.”
Spector’s lawyers claimed Clarkson was depressed about her career and committed suicide by shooting herself in the mouth.
Defense attorney Doron Weinberg said he was very worried about Spector’s health. He told reporters Spector had emergency surgery earlier this week to remove precancerous polyps from his vocal chords.
Clarkson worked as a hostess at the House of Blues in West Hollywood when she met the man who produced songs like the Righteous Brothers’ hit “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.'” Clarkson starred in the movies “Barbarian Queen” and “Amazon Women on the Moon.”
Clarkson’s family has also filed a wrongful death civil suit against Spector, which has yet to be heard.
“The impact of Lana’s loss has changed all of our lives. All of our plans together are destroyed. Now I can only visit her at the cemetery,” Clarkson’s mother, Donna, told the court before sentencing.
Spector paid more than $26,000 to cover funeral costs for Clarkson’s family, victim’s restitution and other expenses.
Spector had a troubled early life. His father committed suicide, his sister spent time in mental institutions and Spector suffered bouts of severe depression.
Shortly before Clarkson was shot, Spector told British journalist Mick Brown in a rare interview that he had a bipolar personality and had “devils that fight inside me.”