Jurors in the murder trial of Phil Spector last night told the judge that they had reached an impasse in their deliberations, raising the prospect of a mistrial being called as soon as today.
A mistrial would essentially leave the wildly eccentric music producer a free man.
At a hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Larry Paul Fidler questioned the jurors, who told him that they were split 7 to 5 — a sign of irreconcileable differences. They did not reveal which way the balance tipped: guilty or not guilty.
When asked if they could reach a decision if they were allowed to convict Mr Spector of involuntary manslaughter, instead of the original charge of second-degree murder, only three jurors said yes. Analysts said that this did not bode well for the prosecution.
Mr Spector, 67, is accused of picking up Lana Clarkson, a struggling actress who was working as a cocktail waitress at the House of Blues, on a February night in 2003, taking her home to his Los Angeles “castle”, and shooting her in the face.
The creator of the “Wall of Sound” technique of the Sixties, and a one-time producer for The Beatles, had been known for decades in the music industry for his drunken gunplay.