An actress shot to death at Phil Spector’s hilltop castle was the last of several women victimized by the legendary music producer in a decades-long series of alcohol-fueled confrontations, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday as they began hearing the case.
The defense countered that Lana Clarkson’s death was an accident, and characterized Spector as an old-fashioned romantic.
Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson outlined what he called a pattern of behavior in which Spector 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.
He said Spector 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,” Jackson told the jury.
The prosecutor showed a photograph of Clarkson slumped in a chair, her face covered with blood.
Defense attorney Bruce Cutler told jurors that investigators leaped to the conclusion that it was a murder.
“The evidence will show that back on Feb. 3 of ’03, before they even had a cause of death, let alone a manner of death, they had murder on their mind. Murder on their mind — the police,” Cutler said.
Spector listened glumly during the televised proceeding as the prosecution laid out the murder case against him.
Spector, 67, whose “Wall of Sound” transformed rock ’n’ roll in the 1960s, lives in a rambling castle-like mansion in suburban Alhambra. It was there that he took Clarkson, who wound up dead in the foyer with a gunshot through her mouth.
Jackson told the jury that Spector had gone out on the town for an evening with female friends and had many drinks at a series of restaurants before arriving at the House of Blues, where he met Clarkson, 40, who was working in the club’s elite Foundation Room. She had a role in the Roger Corman 1980s cult film “Barbarian Queen.”
Spector, wearing a taupe suit with a long coat and purple shirt, appeared particularly downcast when a 911 call from his chauffeur was played. It showed that the operator could not figure out who the person was who had reportedly killed someone, mispronouncing his name several times.
The prosecutor highlighted Spector’s faded glory by noting that Clarkson did not recognize Spector, tried to keep him out of the Foundation Room and may have at first thought he was a woman.
“Phil Spector recited the mantra of the rich and famous: ‘Do you know who I am? I’m Phil Spector,”’ Jackson said. But it was not until a supervisor told Clarkson to “treat him like gold” that she knew he was a celebrity, he said. When the bar closed, Spector had to persuade her to come home with him for one drink, he said.
The prosecutor presented video surveillance footage from a House of Blues camera that showed Clarkson leaving with Spector.
“She was found dead two hours and 55 minutes later,” he said.
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.
“Lana Clarkson was the last of a long line of women victimized by Phillip Spector over the years,” the prosecutor said.
He described four women he said the jury will hear from, including a personal manager for Joan Rivers, a professional photographer of rock stars, a personal assistant who worked for Spector and a woman Spector dated.
It took about eight months for authorities to charge 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.