By Janine Theriault, Staff Writer
HOLLYWOOD (RPRN) 04-16-09 – It took six years, two trials, and untold millions of dollars, but Hollywoodâ€™s justice system now appears to have risen to the challenge, convicting Phil Spector, a defendant who had long ago been found guilty in the court of public opinion. A fate spared for many Hollywood Celebrities accused of murder.
The overlong ordeal for Spector and spectators alike came to its conclusion on Monday when the (in)famous music impresario was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of actress Lana Clarkson, whose body was found in Spectorâ€™s mansion in February of 2003.
Spectorâ€™s conviction this week met with relief for friends and family of Clarkson. â€œAfter six long years of work and anxiety,â€ Edward Lozzi, Clarksonâ€™s former publicist and long-time friend stated in a press release, â€œâ€¦we know the jury did the right thingâ€¦.we are just plain happy!â€.
But this trialâ€™s outcome contrasts markedly with several other notoriously controversial celebrity murder cases in recent years – standing in relief against a long line of suspicious deaths and dubious verdicts.
The integrity of the Hollywood courts was most recently and publicly called into question following the circus-like court cases of fallen stars Robert Blake and O.J. Simpson â€“ with the Simpson case appearing to set the template for controversial acquittals of stars in murder trials.
Serving to further tarnish the L.A. judicial systemâ€™s image, an apparent rebuttal of both these murder acquittals came when both stars were found liable in wrongful death suits filed by the families of the victims.
Yet contentious celebrity trials by Hollywoodâ€™s courts most certainly precede what may be the apex (or nadir) set by the O.J. Simpson case; there was already plenty of tarnish evident.
Some hints at the direction future celebrity murder cases would take could be found in the trial of Christian Brando (son of Marlon Brando) in 1990. The younger Brando pled guilty to manslaughter in the shooting death of his sister Cheyenne Brandoâ€™s boyfriend, Dag Drollet. The prosecution in the case initially charged Brando with murder, but was stymied in their attempts to proceed with the charge when Marlon Brando reportedly had Cheyenne admitted to psychiatric hospital in Tahiti â€“ thereby taking away the prosecutionâ€™s key witness.
In a variation on the theme, the 1958 case involving Lana Turner and her daughter Cheryl Crane resulted in a justifiable homicide verdict for the stabbing death of a male victim, Turnerâ€™s former lover Johnny Stompanator. The 14 year-old Crane stated she was defending her mother against Stompanatorâ€™s threats.
And, of course, the ghost of Natalie Wood still haunts public imagination and opinion with her untimely death by drowning when she suspiciously fell off a boat, and Robert Wagner, her husband at the time claimed ignorance of the accident.
So, while it may be true that the wheels of justice grind agonizingly slowly in Hollywood, they do at least appear to be grinding – after being free on bail for most of the six years since Clarksonâ€™s death, Spector can now expect to spend the next 18 years in prison. This may be a long way from exceeding fine, but itâ€™s a start in a more accepted direction.
photoÂ Image by Bettmann/CORBIS