A prosecutor on Wednesday portrayed eccentric musical genius Phil Spector as a man who repeatedly threatened women with guns and could become “very sinister, very violent and very deadly” when he was drunk.
The opening statement by prosecutor Alan Jackson in Spector’s retrial on a murder charge drew scrutiny from defense attorney Doron Weinberg, who called it an effort to try Spector for his character, rather than for the crime he is accused of committing.
Prosecutors claim Spector shot actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 after she resisted his sexual advances.
“This is turning into the trial of his character, which this court knows is clearly unconstitutional and impermissible,” Weinberg told Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler outside the jury’s presence.
Weinberg later moved for a mistrial, saying the jury had been intentionally poisoned by the remarks. Fidler rejected the motion.
In a speech reminiscent of the one he gave at the first trial, Jackson briefly described the killing of Clarkson at Spector’s mansion and displayed photos showing her in life and death. One image showed her body slumped in a chair with blood all over her face.
Jackson also recounted the statement of a chauffeur who told of Spector emerging from the house saying: “I think I killed somebody.”
Jackson delivered his statement before a packed courtroom, with Clarkson’s mother and sister seated in the front row. Spector wore a black pinstriped suit and white tie and was accompanied to court by his wife, Rachelle, and a bodyguard.
In Weinberg’s opening statement, he said the prosecution “does not have evidence that Mr. Spector killed Lana Clarkson, because he didn’t.” He contended the evidence will show her gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
Clarkson, who had recently turned 40 and experienced personal and career setbacks, might have shot herself in a moment of despair as she prepared to leave Spector’s house, Weinberg said.
“She could have been thinking, ’Is this where I am? Is this where I’m going?”’ Weinberg told jurors. “At that moment, to do something impulsive and self-destructive is entirely consistent with where she was.”
Weinberg also said forensic analysis of blood spatter and gunshot residue would show that Spector did not fire the gun.
During Spector’s first trial, the defense also had argued Clarkson became despondent over her fading career and killed herself.
Women of Spector's past showcased
Most of Jackson’s opening statement dealt with a long line of women stretching over 30 years who he said were threatened with death by a gun-wielding Spector.
He showed photos of five of them interspersed with quotes from their previous testimony, profane voicemail messages left for them by Spector and, in one case, a video excerpt from the testimony of a witness who has since died.
In that footage, Diane Ogden pointed a finger at her head and testified that Spector held a gun to her face. “He said he was going to blow my brains out,” she testified.
The judge told Jackson several times to stop referring to a pattern of behavior.
A retired New York City police detective who overheard Spector threatening women outside Christmas parties in the early 1990s was expected to be the prosecution’s first witness Thursday.
It’s been a year since the jury in Spector’s first trial deadlocked 10-2, with the majority favoring conviction.
There were no witnesses to the shooting, and Spector didn’t testify in that trial.
Spector invented the recording technique known as the “Wall of Sound” and produced such anthems as the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”