Record producer Phil Spector charged with murder

Thursday, November 20th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALHAMBRA, Calif. (AP) _ Record producer Phil Spector, the 1960s recording-studio wizard who created pop music's Wall of Sound, was charged Thursday with murder in the shooting death of a woman at his home last February.

Spector, 63, was expected to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in the slaying of 40-year-old Lana Clarkson, a B-movie actress and model found dead in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion.

He has been free on $1 million bail since his arrest for investigation of murder shortly after the shooting Feb. 3. Authorities have not given a motive or commented on other details of the investigation.

The felony complaint did not specify whether prosecutors will seek a first-degree or second-degree murder conviction. District Attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison with a possibility of parole.

The development created the unusual scene of two major music artists facing criminal proceedings in the same day. As the charges against Spector were announced, hundreds of reporters were waiting in Santa Barbara County for Michael Jackson to surrender in a case involving child molestation.

Spector's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. But Spector's close friend, attorney Marvin Mitchelson, said, ``I am shocked, saddened. But I fully believe that time will prove Phil's complete innocence.''

Spector has denied he killed Clarkson, suggesting in an Esquire magazine interview that she may have shot herself. After more than six months of investigation, authorities concluded Spector shot her.

Spector is famous for creating the Wall of Sound that involved overdubbing of multiple instruments, vocals and sound effects create a full, dramatic effect. The technique changed the way pop records were produced while bringing fame to groups like the Ronettes and the Crystals.

Among the hits bearing his signature style are ``Da Doo Ron Ron'' and ``Then He Kissed Me'' by the Crystals; ``Walking in the Rain'' by the Ronettes and ``You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin''' by the Righteous Brothers.

He also worked with Elvis Presley and Ike and Tina Turner, produced the last Beatles album, ``Let It Be,'' in 1970, worked with John Lennon on ``Imagine,'' and helped Yoko Ono produce Lennon's work after he was killed in 1980.

But there apparently was a dark side to Spector's genius, with stories of drunken rages, violence against a former wife, and a penchant for brandishing firearms.

Spector's last major album was a 1980s collaboration with the Ramones, ``End of the Century.'' During the session, the late bassist Dee Dee Ramone said Spector pulled a gun on the band.

The investigation into the Clarkson killing had been under investigation since February, and Gibbons said the long delay in charges was due to a lengthy sheriff's investigation.

``The sheriff didn't turn over the evidence to us until Sept. 18,'' she said. ``We had a tremendous amount of evidence to evaluate and we had to gather additional evidence on our own.''

She noted that the prosecutor initially assigned to lead the case, Michael Latin, was appointed to a judgeship in the waning days of the Gov. Gray Davis' administration and the prosecution team had to be reconfigured.