In The Courts

Spector Convicted; Victim-Blame Still at Large

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Katie Buckland says justice was served in the second murder trial of Hollywood music producer Phil Spector. But the former prosecutor, now with the California Women's Law Center, says victim blaming was allowed to freely stalk the case.

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Katie Buckland

(WOMENSENEWS)--As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I am gratified and relieved by the jury's decision in the Phil Spector murder case in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.

Spector, 69, a former music producer, was convicted Monday after his second trial of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson almost six years ago.

The jury system is at best an imprecise arbiter of justice.

It is undoubtedly true, as one juror in the first trial in 2007, remarked, that Spector bought himself some forensic evidence by introducing bogus scientific evidence about the pattern of the blood splatter and position of the gun that tricked two jurors into thinking Clarkson had killed herself.

According to comments after the first trial, one of the jurors found it relevant that the county coroner's office did not produce a "psychological autopsy" of Lana Clarkson.

What exactly is a "psychological autopsy"? And are Americans really so addicted to crime solving shows that attaching the word "autopsy" gives this ridiculous concept some validity?

No, this is simply a made up term for the age-old practice of blaming women for the violence that pervades their lives.

Life Up for Grabs

Lana Clarkson's entire life was dissected and described with psychobabble during both trials, which may warrant taking another look at the California Evidence Code. The rules for what goes on in California state courts give the judge wide latitude in determining what evidence is relevant. Perhaps that code should be amended to specifically rule out trash psychology such as this.

The entire defense was premised on the theory that Clarkson was suicidal and thus planned to be in the presence of a gun-waving maniac with a history of violence against at least five other women.

There was never a scintilla of evidence to support this theory, yet it allowed her life to be on display.

The defense never introduced evidence that Lana Clarkson knew of Spector's previous violent behavior.

If she didn't know he was capable of such violence, how could her trip to his faux castle possibly have been motivated by a desire to end her life?

Let's Back Up

The implied theory was that she was so despondent over her circumstances that she threw caution to the wind when she got into the car with Spector to tour his house. But let's back up for a moment.

Before she accepted a ride in the chauffeured town car she clarified with the driver that he would accompany them during their visit to Spector's mansion and return her to the lot where her car was parked. This is hardly risky behavior by any stretch of the imagination.

So she hated her job at The House of Blues where she worked as a hostess in the VIP room and complained about it when e-mailing friends. That's a thought familiar to most working people, at least occasionally. She also went out and bought appropriate and comfortable shoes, a clear indication that she planned to be working as a hostess for the foreseeable future.

And then there is Phil Spector's statement to the chauffeur; "I think I killed someone."

Maybe my years as a prosecutor have made me cynical, but that sounds pretty close to a confession if you ask me.

Most chilling is the testimony of five other women who had guns waved in their face when they tried to leave his residence, behavior going back almost 20 years.

This is a man with a pathological hatred of women, a gun collection, and enough name recognition many years after his producing career ended, to lure Lana Clarkson to her death.

The details of her phone calls, her shoe shopping and her e-mailed intentions to attend a party that weekend had no place in this trial, and seemingly caused her family unnecessary pain.

The defense theory of "suicide by insane gun wielding former music producer" was enough to hang one jury, but not the second, and we thank those prosecutors who endured a second trial to ensure that justice was served.

Katie Buckland is the executive director of The California Women's Law Center and can be contacted at


For more information:

California Women's Law Center

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