Do It Over

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Doesn't the Phil Spector case just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside about the justice system?

I might be too cynical about these televised celebrity trials. But sometimes it's just hard not to shake your head and wonder. Is this the way it's supposed to work?

Four and a half years have elapsed since Lana Clarkson died of a gunshot to the mouth inside Spector's castle.

Maybe it was an accident. Maybe she chose to commit suicide in the lair of a party animal she had known for four hours.

And maybe she died at the hands of a creepy gun nut who told his driver he just killed somebody -- and waited almost 40 minutes to call for help.

OK, that sounds a little harsh. Spector hasn't been convicted of any crime.

A jury of 11 civilians and a producer for NBC Dateline tried their best to reach a verdict. They just couldn't get it done.

They heard evidence for many months, listened to testimony from dozens of witnesses.

When that part was over, they deliberated for eleven days. At one point they claimed to be deadlocked at 7-to-5 and asked the judge if they could quit and go home.

Judge Larry Paul Fidler said no. He's the one who OK'd the Dateline producer and invited cameras in the courtroom. He wanted this show to end in a big climax.

He even tweaked the rules a bit, giving the jury slightly altered instructions and a push to try again.

This kept the action going for another few days. But in the end, the jury stalled at 10-to-2. In favor of conviction, it should be noted.

Spector spent millions on hired experts, investigators, his team of seven lawyers. It had the desired effect. All that preparation and effort -- and money -- instilled doubt in two jurors.

It wasn't acquittal. But it earned Spector another year, at least, of freedom. With one vote to spare. Good enough.

One of the holdouts was the foreman, a civil engineer who lives near Spector. He said afterward that the DA never put the gun in Spector's hand, and couldn't ease doubts about the chauffeur's imperfect English.

Other jurors thought that the DA's office could have made a better case on the forensic evidence, and made clearer that Clarkson was in no way suicidal that night she got in Spector's limo after work at the House of Blues.

The mistrial is really bad news for the journalists who got stuck with the Spector beat. They sat through all that testimony, then the endless deliberations. It got so tedious that reporters began entertaining the courthouse press room with theme programming.

Dominick Dunne brought in an I Dream of Jeannie episode featuring Spector as himself in the 1960s. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clarkson's first movie, made the list too.

And now they have to do it all again, those not lucky enough to score a new assignment.

Imagine the tedium. There's got to be nothing worse than sitting through months of sleep-inducing testimony a second time.

No surprises to keep you alert. No unseen plot twists. It's just a summer rerun for everyone but the new jury.

Even Spector's lead attorney is out, cheekily telling the press he signed on for one tour of duty, not two.

DA Steve Cooley's prosecutors are not so fortunate. They've been told that Phil Spector will consume the next year of their lives too. They better not blow it again either, not with the boss up for reelection and voters wondering why celebrities rarely get held to account in this town.

It looks like we all have a date to see more of Spector starting again next spring. I can hardly wait.

This time, maybe a paparazzo for TMZ TV will get on the jury. That could liven things up for a few hours.

For KCRW, I'm Kevin Roderick and this has been LA Observed.

Music producer Phil Spector and his wife Rachelle leave the Los Angeles Superior Court in Los Angeles. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images