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Spector jurors have the option of manslaughter conviction

March 20, 2009 |  1:27 pm

Phil_spector_2 When jurors begin deliberating charges against Phil Spector next week, they will have a choice the panelists at the music producer’s first trial didn’t: manslaughter.

Over the strenuous objections of Spector’s defense, Judge Larry Paul Fidler said today that jurors will have the option of convicting the 69-year-old of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an actress instead of the top count, second-degree murder. A 2007 jury deadlocked on that count 10 to 2 in favor of conviction.

Lana Clarkson was found dead in Spector’s foyer six years ago. His defense contends she killed herself. Prosecutors say Spector shot her.

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg told the judge that the ruling was “absolutely erroneous” and predicted that it would confuse the jury. He said it was “an invitation to compromise” if panelists split on the murder count.

“There is not a shred of factual or legal support for" involuntary manslaughter,” Weinberg said.

The judge acknowledged that neither theory presented in the five-month trial suggested involuntary manslaughter, but he said it was possible a juror might interpret the evidence in a way that pointed toward manslaughter. Case law, he said, left him no choice. Closing arguments are set for Monday morning.

-- Harriet Ryan

Photo: Phil Spector in court. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press