LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rock producer Phil Spector murdered an actress in the same “petulant fit of rage” witnessed over the years by other women he held at gunpoint in similar circumstances, a Los Angeles prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday at the start of a retrial in the 2003 killing.
Spector, 68, is charged with murdering 40-year-old Lana Clarkson in the early morning hours of February 3, 2003 as she tried to leave his mock castle in the foothills outside Los Angeles.
A first trial ended in a mistrial in September of 2007 after the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of a guilty verdict against the man who pioneered the 1960s “Wall of Sound” pop music technique. California law requires a unanimous verdict to convict or acquit.
The diminutive Spector arrived in court on Monday dressed in a sober black suit and white tie and flanked by two large bodyguards. He talked quietly with his attorneys, at times smiling, until the seven men and five women of the second jury to try him entered the courtroom.
During his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson reiterated for the new jury the prosecution’s theory that the shooting was the final chapter in a long pattern of violence that Spector practiced against women toward whom he had romantic intentions.
“In some petulant fit of rage, he pulled a gun on the unarmed Lana Clarkson as she sat in the foyer of his home and before he was through with her, he put a bullet in her head,” Jackson told the court.
“A history of rage, a pattern of hate, a pattern of abuse against women. She was simply the last in a very long line of women who had suffered abuse over the years,” Jackson said.
As in the first trial, the jury will hear testimony from five women whom Spector detained at gunpoint, often pressing the barrel of the weapon to their heads or faces, when they tried to leave his home or hotel after a night of drinking.
“Pay special attention to the pattern that emerges,” Jackson told the panel.
In his opening statement, the prosecutor played Spector’s expletive-laced voicemail messages to two women who had called police after their confrontations with the music producer.
“Be very careful what you say to people because nothing you say to me is worth your life,” Spector said in one message.
“I’ll do everything in my f***ing power to make sure you never work in Philadelphia,” he said in another, years later.
Spector first met Clarkson at the House of Blues nightclub on the Sunset Strip just hours before her death. She was working as a hostess at the club where he had gone with a friend for late night drinks. Spector persuaded the tall, blond actress to go home with him for a drink.
Court spectators gasped as side-by-side images of Clarkson’s publicity photo and her body slumped in a chair in Spector’s home, her nose and mouth bloodied and her blond hair rumpled, flashed on a screen in the darkened courtroom.
“This is how he found Lana Clarkson,” Jackson told the jury. “And this is how he left her.”
Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Anthony Boadle