Music legend Phil Spector had a decades-long pattern of holding women at gunpoint after nights of excessive drinking and that culminated in his killing actress Lana Clarkson, prosecutor Alan Jackson told a jury in opening statements of the producer's murder trial.
Clarkson was the "last of a long line of victims," Jackson said. "The evidence is going to paint a picture of a man who put a loaded pistol in Lana Clarkson's mouth -- inside her mouth -- and shot her to death."
In what Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson called, "the best prosecution opening I have seen in a high-profile case," Jackson gave detailed accounts of incidents involving four different women that sounded eerily similar: The women, all romantic interests, went home with Spector, and when they decided to leave, Spector flew into a rage, put a gun to their faces and ordered them to stay.
According to the prosecution, Spector's chauffeur will testify that Spector said, "I think I killed someone," after the driver heard a "pow" from where he was parked just a few feet from the scene.
The driver saw Spector come outside with a gun and what appeared to be blood running through his fingers, the prosecution told the jury.
On a 911 recording, the driver says, "I think my boss killed somebody." After being asked how he knows, he responds, "He has a lady on the floor and a gun in his hands."
Spector's defense counsel, Bruce Cutler, said Clarkson's death was a tragic accident, a suicide or "accidental suicide," and that Clarkson, not Spector, had fired the gun. He spoke of Spector as a self-made man from a lower-middle-class upbringing "whose music changed the world."
This included his creation of the "wall of sound" production technique, his work with artists like the Beatles, the Ramones, Ike and Tina Turner, and his song hits that included, "Be My Baby," "Spanish Harlem," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "River Deep, Mountain High," and the Beatles legendary "Let It Be" album.
That kind of fame and success, Cutler said, "comes back to haunt you."
He accused the police and prosecutors of rushing to judgment based on unreliable witnesses with ulterior motives, concluding that "they had murder on their minds."
According to Cutler, evidence will show that Clarkson's teeth were not "broken in" the way they would be had a gun been forced into her mouth.
The defense also said that scientific analysis of the blood splatters and gun residue on Spector's clothing will prove that he was not standing close enough to her to have fired the gun.
There were no witnesses in the house, Cutler told the jury, but "science is a witness … science is our friend."
If convicted of second degree murder, Spector will face 15 years to life in prison.
The prosecution needs to prove that Spector killed Clarkson with willfulness and "implied malice," that is, a conscious disregard for human life or extreme recklessness, according to Levenson.
Alternatively, he could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a two-year to four-year sentence, if the jury believes that he acted negligently but without willfulness and malice, said Levenson. The trial is expected to last up to three months.