Prosecutors: Night of Partying Ended in Murder

Opening statements begin in Phil Spector's muder trial

Prosecutors say a long night of partying at some of L.A.'s most upscale bars and restaurants ended when Phil Spector "put a bullet in (the) head" of actress Lana Clarkson.  

Opening statements began this morning in the re-trial of the renowned pop music producer, whose resume includes producing records for the Beatles and the Righteous Brothers, among others.

Prosecutors say Spector met Clarkson at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip only hours before the two returned to Spector's home in Alhambra. Prosecutor Alan Jackson said Spector became enraged when Clarkson tried to leave, and that he threatened her with a gun before pulling the trigger, killing the 40-year-old actress.

A defense attorney countered, however, that prosecutors had no proof the music producer fired the fatal shot.

"The physical evidence is going to show that the gunshot wound in this case was self-inflicted," attorney Doron Weinberg said in his opening statement.

Spector is alleged to have threatened several other women in a similar way, and that his behavior with Clarkson followed a violent pattern.

"Before he was through with her, he put a bullet in her head,"  Jackson told the seven-man, five-woman jury.

Court observers said the state's opening statement is very similar to the first trial, where jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction.   In that trial, the defense maintained Clarkson was despondent over her failing career, and committed suicide at Spector's home.

Jackson told jurors they would hear testimony from Adriano De Souza, Spector's chauffer that night, who heard the gunshot ring out while he was sitting in a car in the rear of the house. De Souza will testify that he saw Spector walk out of the house after the shot.

"He had in his right hand a revolver," Jackson said, adding that Spector then confessed to the killing, telling the driver, "I think I just killed somebody."

Weinberg insisted the physical evidence would show that the gun was not forced into Clarkson's mouth, and there was no evidence of a fight between her and Spector.

As in the first trial, Jackson said jurors would hear about Spector's pattern of violence against women, and his propensity for threatening women with guns when he gets drunk and they spurn his romantic advances.

Jurors will again hear testimony from five women who will describe how Spector became violent with them when they tried to leave his home.

Jackson said one of the women, Dorothy Melvin, called police after Spector threatened her and then would not allow her to take her purse when she left. When officers arrived at his house, Spector answered the door wearing an empty shoulder holster, Jackson said.

Spector later left Melvin a pair of telephone messages, and said in one of them, "I'm going to get you for what you did," Jackson told jurors.

Another woman, Melissa Grosvenor, will tell jurors that when she tried to leave Spector's home, he pointed a gun at her face and said, "You're not leaving; I'll kill you," Jackson said.

"Before the close of this case you'll be introduced to the real Philip Spector," Jackson said.

The trial before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler is expected to last three to four months.

Clarkson's mother, Donna, and Spector's wife, Rachelle, were among those in the packed downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

 

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