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Phil Spector to be sentenced Friday to at least 15 years in prison

Phil Spector’s six years in Los Angeles County’s justice system, an odyssey that began with his arrest for shooting an actress in 2003 and included a grand jury presentation and two trials, will conclude this morning when he is sentenced to prison for murder.

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler, who presided over the music producer’s trials, has little discretion in punishing Spector, 69, for the fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson, 40, a death that jurors decided last month was second-degree murder.

Since the conviction carries a mandatory 15 years to life in prison, the judge’s only choice will be whether to tack on three, four or 10 additional years to the minimum sentence for the use of a firearm.

The prosecution has recommended four more years; the defense has asked for three. The judge’s ruling will determine whether Spector is first eligible for parole at age 77, 78 or 87.

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Spector’s defense has vowed to appeal the conviction, but his lawyer did not file a motion asking the judge to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial.

Although such requests are routine before sentencing, they generally ask judges to reassess rulings made during the trial.

In Spector’s case, the defense already had asked Fidler repeatedly and without success during the course of the two trials -- the first of which ended in a hung jury -- to reverse the decisions his lawyer considers their strongest grounds for appeal.

Those issues include the admissibility of testimony from five women who said Spector menaced them with guns in a manner that prosecutors said was similar to the circumstances of Clarkson’s death in the foyer of his Alhambra mansion.

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The prosecution said the testimony proved a pattern. The defense, which maintained that the shooting was suicide, said the testimony prejudiced jurors against Spector.

Clarkson’s mother, Donna, will make a short victim-impact statement before the sentencing. She has filed a civil wrongful death suit against Spector.

The producer is not expected to speak, on the advice of his legal team, said publicist Hal Lifson.

Spector has been in jail since his April 13 conviction.

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A court spokesman said Fidler granted a request by the music producer, who dressed in custom suits and bright ties during his trial, to wear his own clothes instead of a jail uniform to court.

“It is not at all uncommon for defendants at sentencing to be permitted to be able to wear their street clothes,” said spokesman Allan Parachini.

On Wednesday, Spector underwent surgery to remove polyps from his vocal cords at UCLA Medical Center.

His publicist said Spector was “very disappointed” in the verdict, but was looking forward to having his case reviewed by higher courts.

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“Everything is now being focused on a successful appeal,” he said.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com


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