Grand Jury Indicts Phil Spector On Murder Charges

Legendary producer accused of shooting actress at his home last year.

A grand jury has indicted Phil Spector on charges of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in February 2003.

The producer, who was charged in November (see "Producer Phil Spector Charged With Murder"), again pleaded not guilty in a court appearance Monday (September 27). He remains free on $1 million bail.

A grand jury indictment is basically a way for prosecutors to avoid preliminary hearings, which are held to determine if a case is strong enough to go to trial. The main differences between a preliminary hearing and a grand jury investigation is that the latter proceedings are held without defense attorneys present and are not open to the public.

"Fundamentally, it's a way to bypass the ability of the defense to cross-examine, which they would have the right to do at a preliminary hearing," Stephan DeSales, a former prosecutor for Los Angeles County, said earlier this year when Michael Jackson was indicted (see "What Does Jackson's Indictment Mean? A Lawyer Explains"). "The old saying is the district attorney could indict a ham sandwich if he wanted to because the grand jury is more or less a rubber stamp for the DA."

Although Jackson's lawyers were not present during his grand-jury trial, they knew of the proceedings. Spector's newly appointed team said it only began to expect a grand-jury indictment when the producer's Monday court appearance was ordered last week.

"Phil is very disappointed," Spector attorney Roger Rosen told Reuters last week. "He believed that at the time of the preliminary hearing we would have the opportunity to challenge the evidence."

"The actions of the Hitler-like district attorney and his storm-trooper henchmen are reprehensible, unconscionable and despicable," Spector told reporters outside the courtroom Monday. "This district attorney is pursuing a personal vendetta."

Sandi Gibbons, a spokesperson for District Attorney Steve Cooley, disagreed, telling reporters the move was not political. "It's been almost two years since Miss Clarkson was murdered at Mr. Spector's home and it's time for this case to go to trial," she said.

Spector claims Clarkson, star of such B-movies as "The Barbarian Queen" and "Amazon Women on the Moon," shot herself in his foyer (see "Phil Spector Says Slain Actress 'Kissed The Gun' Before Killing Herself"), although prosecutors insist the evidence says otherwise (see "Coroner Says Homicide; Phil Spector's Lawyers See Suicide").

Known primarily for creating of the Wall of Sound style used by '60s soul groups like the Righteous Brothers, Spector is also notorious for his eccentricities and has allegedly pulled guns on numerous peers over the years, ranging from John Lennon to David Geffen, according to various biographies (see "Phil Spector: Mad Genius, By Kurt Loder"). Dee Dee Ramone told MTV News before his death last year that while recording the Ramones' End of the Century, Spector held him hostage for two days and had a number of guns in his mansion. Marky Ramone, however, insisted Spector was not violent.

Bruce Cutler, best known for representing mobster John Gotti, is currently heading Spector's team of lawyers, which has changed numerous times since his arrest. Spector waived his right to a speedy trial at Monday's indictment. December 16 was set as the earliest possible trial date, although Cutler will likely push for a delay.