The jury foreman in the murder trial of Phil Spector reported Tuesday that jurors were at a seven-to-five impasse after seven days of deliberation. He did not indicate which way the jury was leaning.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said he is considering giving jurors the option of finding the record producer guilty of a lesser charge than second degree murder, a move which Spector's defense team will likely oppose.
Legal scholars said dropping the charge to involuntary manslaughter could make a conviction vulnerable to appeal. Fidler had previously rejected the option of letting jurors find the 67-year-old Spector guilty of a lesser charge.
He is accused of fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California mansion on February 3, 2003, hours after she met him at her job as a nightclub hostess and went home with him. The defense maintains Clarkson, 40, was depressed and shot herself in the mouth either on purpose or accidentally.
The jury foreman, a 32-year-old civil engineer, told the judge he had little hope of resolving the impasse, indicating jurors were at odds over facts in the case, not the law. "I believe it comes down to the individual jurors' conclusions that are drawn from the facts," he said. "At this time I don't believe that anything else will change the positions of the jurors, based on the facts that are in evidence." He said the panel had taken four votes before reporting the deadlock.
However, three jurors suggested that re-reading jury instructions on the question of reasonable doubt could prove helpful. One asked for clarification about "the difference between reasonable doubt and doubt."
The judge told jurors he may give them new instructions, or even have attorneys re-argue parts of the case.
Legal experts said Fidler could be risking appellate disapproval if a conviction was obtained after adding involuntary manslaughter as an option. Opening statements for the trial began April 25, 2007 in Los Angeles. The case went to the jury September 10.