Legendary music producer Phil Spector has a long history of exploding into gun brandishing fury against women that culminated with him shooting an actress dead at his mock castle outside Los Angeles, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.
But as Spector's murder trial kicked off, his lead attorney delivered a fiery response that had him at times shouting, shaking his fist and gripping his head in apparent frustration as he vowed to prove that B-movie star Lana Clarkson was holding the gun herself when it went off in her mouth.
The opening statements marked the first day of trial for Spector, the 67-year-old music genius who faces life in prison if he is convicted of killing Clarkson in the foyer of his imposing, hilltop mansion on Feb. 3, 2003.
The reclusive, often eccentric Spector came to court sporting a blond page-boy hair-do, cream suit and purple shirt, listening with obvious dismay as prosecutor Alan Jackson portrayed him as having a penchant for guns and violence toward women who spurned him.
"This is a picture of a man, Phillip Spector, who when he is confronted with the right circumstances, turns sinister and deadly," Jackson told the nine-man, three-woman jury.
"Lana Clarkson ... was simply the last in a long line of women who fell victim to Phillip Spector over the years," said Jackson. "He put a loaded pistol in Lana Clarkson's mouth and he shot her to death."
Displaying a picture of the 40-year-old actress splayed in a chair in the foyer of Spector's home in a black dress, her face covered in blood, Jackson said he would call at least four women to testify they had been threatened by a gun-wielding Spector.
'MURDER ON THEIR MIND'
In each case, Jackson said, Spector had "snapped" after a night of heavy drinking when the women tried to leave his home, and said a similar scene had transpired with Clarkson on the night of the murder.
He said Spector's hired driver on the night of the murder would testify that, after he heard a single gunshot, the rock producer emerged from his home, holding a gun, his fingers dripping blood, and said simply: "I think I killed somebody."
But lead defense attorney Bruce Cutler, getting his turn with the jury late in the afternoon, accused authorities of having "murder on their mind" from the outset -- even though he could prove that Clarkson had shot herself.
"A self-inflicted gunshot wound can be an accidental suicide and the evidence will show you that's the case," Cutler said. "At the time of the discharge of the gun, Phillip Spector was not holding that gun. We will prove that to you. She was."
Cutler, who had not concluded his remarks before court was recessed for the afternoon, did not say why Clarkson would have placed the gun into her own mouth but referred to the Colt Cobra .38 special revolver as "ornamental."
"Sometimes an ornamental gun ... can be used for all kinds of things -- even though that's unsafe to do," he said.
The courtroom was packed for the first day of trial for Spector, best known for his innovative "Wall of Sound" recording technique and work in the 1960s with The Beatles, The Righteous Brothers and The Ronettes.
The trial, being televised live, is expected to last up to three months in what promises to be the biggest celebrity court case since singer Michael Jackson was acquitted of child molestation in 2005.
It is not clear if Spector, who has shunned the public eye for decades and has described himself as battling depression and internal "devils," will testify.