LOS ANGELES – Nearly six years after an actress was shot to death in the foyer of his storied castle, music legend Phil Spector's long, strange voyage through the justice system is nearing what could be its final act — his lawyer's presentation of what happened on that fateful night.
Prosecutors rested their case last week in what is the second murder trial for Spector. The first ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict and deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction.
Both sides are hoping for a verdict this time. If convicted, the 68-year-old record producer could be sentenced to 18 years in prison, realistically the rest of his life.
A verdict would also render a decision on just what happened to Lana Clarkson, a statuesque, blonde beauty who became a 1980s cult figure following her starring role in the Roger Corman film "Barbarian Queen."
The new jury must decide the same question that ultimately stumped the first: Did Spector, a man known for threatening people with guns, shoot Clarkson or did the 40-year-old actress, down on her luck and despondent about her future, turn a gun on herself?
After weeks of scientific testimony and accounts of the fateful meeting of Clarkson and Spector, the final prosecution witness Thursday was her mother, Donna Clarkson, whose testimony sought to show that her daughter was not suicidal because she went shopping for shoes the day before her death in February 2003.
Unlike the first trial, which included a cast of multiple defense lawyers, the second one has just one featured player on Spector's side, veteran trial lawyer Doron Weinberg, who planned to open his case Monday afternoon with testimony from a coroner.
Weinberg is likely to question why a "psychological autopsy" was not done, analyzing Clarkson's letters, e-mails and activities in the weeks before she died.
He is pursuing a risky new strategy in the second trial, seeking to show that Spector did not threaten only women with guns — he threatened men as well. The idea is to counter prosecution claims that Spector hated women and had a homicidal instinct toward them.
While acknowledging that Spector sometimes waved guns around, Weinberg said in his opening statement that the genius who revolutionized pop music "never fired a gun at a living being."
Spector, famous for changing the sound of rock 'n' roll with his "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the 1960s, has worked with the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, the Crystals, the Ronettes and numerous others, producing such class pop songs as "River Deep, Mountain High" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."
Free on $1 million bail, he sits silently at the counsel table, a diminutive, foppish figure wearing long frock coats and silk ties, accompanied to court by his young wife, Rachelle, and a bodyguard.
Weinberg has promised to wrap up his presentation in about three weeks, having already spent many hours cross-examining witnesses presented by prosecutors Alan Jackson and Truc Do in a trial that began last October.