Prosecution lays out Spector murder case
EmptyMore than four years after a beautiful actress was shot to death at Phil Spector's hilltop castle, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that at times the music producer becomes "sinister and deadly."
Spector appeared tense as he watched from the counsel table in a televised proceeding as the prosecution laid out the murder case against him in an opening statement to the jury of nine men and three women.
Spector, said Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, is someone "who, when he's confronted with the right circumstances, when he's confronted with the right situations, turns sinister and deadly.
"The evidence is going to paint a picture of a man who on February 3, 2003, put a loaded pistol in Lana Clarkson's mouth -- inside her mouth -- and shot her to death."
The prosecutor showed a photograph of Clarkson slumped in a chair, her face covered with blood.
Spector, who came to court in a light-colored suit and open-collar dark purple shirt, has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys were to present their opening remarks later.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler earlier instructed the jury on the trial process including the presumption of innocence and the burden on the prosecution to prove the allegations.
Jackson outlined what he called a pattern of behavior by Spector over many years in which he would become exceedingly drunk, take a woman to one of his residences, refuse to let her leave and then threaten her with a gun when she refused to stay.
Four women that he described included a personal manager for Joan Rivers, a professional photographer of rock stars, a personal assistant who worked for Spector, and a woman he dated.
"Lana Clarkson was the last of a long line of women victimized by Phillip Spector over the years," the prosecutor said, adding that the jury will hear from them.
"Lana Clarkson will have to tell her story through the evidence and from the grave," Jackson said.
His opening statement made it clear the prosecution would rely heavily on the testimony of other women dating back to the 1970s.
The issue of whether those women would be allowed to testify was a controversial matter during pretrial proceedings. Ultimately the judge agreed to it but said it was "a slippery slope" legally.
A lawyer representing some of the women appeared before opening statements began to ask that their identities be kept secret and that they not be televised or photographed.
Media lawyer Kelli Sager argued that the women's identities were already revealed in many forums and there was no precedent for giving certain witnesses special treatment.
Fidler agreed and said that only in extreme cases can witnesses claim special privacy rights.
"I've considered the nature of the testimony of the victims," the judge said. "These are not victims of sexual crimes. You have failed to state sufficient reasons why these victims should not come to court and testify like everyone else."
Spector, 67, a legendary music producer whose "Wall of Sound" transformed the sounds of rock 'n' roll in the 1960s, lives in a rambling castle-like mansion in suburban Alhambra. It was there that he took Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003. She wound up dead in the foyer with a gunshot through her mouth.
Clarkson, 40, best known for her role in the Roger Corman 1980s cult classic "Barbarian Queen," had gone home with Spector from her job as a nightclub hostess. He met her only hours before she died.
A chauffeur who drove the pair to Spector's mansion has told of hearing a gunshot and seeing Spector emerge from the house holding a gun and declaring, "I think I killed somebody." Spector later said he believed the shooting was an "accidental suicide" by Clarkson.
It took about eight months of investigation before authorities charged Spector with murder. They are proceeding on a theory of "implied malice," alleging he did not intend to kill Clarkson but caused her death by reckless behavior and taking an extreme risk.
If convicted of second-degree murder, he could face 15 years to life in prison.