Friday, September 21, 2007

No specter for Spector

With all the news about Spears, Lohan, Hilton, and Simpson, one murder defendant is having trouble breaking through the clutter, despite a regular change in his hairstyle.

The jury deciding rock producer Phil Spector’s fate has not reached a verdict in ten days. But that’s just halfway towards the 20-day record set in the 1993 trial of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris in Idaho.

Jurors have made great sacrifices on behalf of the American judicial system. The longest civil jury trial in U.S. history ran over three years from February 1984 to October 1987 after plaintiffs claimed poisoning by dioxin in a 1979 chemical spill. The numbers are eye-glazing: the trial included 200 witnesses, 90,000 pages of transcripts, 6,000 exhibits, and 9,000 evidentiary rulings. The jury denied the claims.

But civil judgments can be significant. In 2001 plaintiffs won just over half the civil trial cases, with 4% awarded $1 million or more. Punitive damages, estimated at $1.2 billion, were awarded to 6% of plaintiff trial winners. The median punitive damage award was $50,000. I guess jurors want to feel useful after spending all that time away from work.

But no one seems interested in Spector’s case, hairdos or not. Maybe the inevitable civil trial will generate more publicity for him. In the meantime maybe he should just try wearing ill-fitting gloves.

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