Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Phil Spector murder retrial opens

Phil Spector and wife Rachelle
Phil Spector, pictured with wife Rachelle, has protested his innocence

Music producer Phil Spector has gone on trial for the second time for the murder of an actress in 2003.

Spector's first trial was declared a mistrial a year ago when jurors failed to reach a decision.

Mr Spector, known for creating the "Wall of Sound" recording technique, denies shooting actress Lana Clarkson at his mansion in Los Angeles.

Prosecutor Alan Jackson told the court Mr Spector could become "very sinister, very violent and very deadly".

In his opening statement, Mr Jackson told jurors the producer was in a "petulant fit of rage" when Ms Clarkson tried to leave his mansion in February 2003.

He portrayed her death as the culmination of a long pattern of violence Mr Spector had shown against women toward whom he had romantic intentions.

'No evidence'

But defence lawyer Doron Weinberg told jurors the "physical evidence is going to show that the gunshot wound... was self-inflicted".

"What the evidence is going to tell you is that Lana Clarkson's body would look the same whether she shot herself or was shot," he said.

"It's true that Phillip has owned guns. It's true that he has exhibited guns.


Phil Spector arrives at court

"What the prosecution doesn't have is actual evidence that Mr Spector killed Lana Clarkson, because he didn't."

In the first trial in 2007, the jurors were split 10 to two in favour of convicting Mr Spector. But they needed to reach a unanimous verdict.

Ms Clarkson was killed by a gunshot to the mouth in the foyer of Mr Spector's mansion.

She died two hours after the pair returned from the House of Blues club on Sunset Boulevard, where she was working as a hostess.

A holster matching the snub-nosed Colt Cobra revolver that killed Ms Clarkson was found in a drawer in Mr Spector's foyer.

Ms Clarkson had been working at the nightclub after struggling to find acting roles, and the original trial heard how she was despondent about her career in the months before her death.

Lana Clarkson
Lana Clarkson appeared in the cult sci-fi movie Barbarian Queen

Mr Spector's Brazilian chauffeur Adriano De Souza said he heard a "pow" at about 5am. His boss emerged from the house several minutes later and told him: "I think I killed somebody," the driver testified.

But less than 24 hours after the shooting, Mr De Souza was asked by police if he could recall Mr Spector's exact words. "I think so. I think, I'm not sure. It's my English," he said.

One of the crucial questions was whether the forensic evidence proved Mr Spector was close enough to the victim to have been able to shoot her in the mouth.

Mr Spector's lawyer Linda Kenney-Baden told jurors the absence of gunshot residue and blood from his sleeves showed he had not fired the fatal shot.

Life sentence

The producer never took to the stand, but told Esquire magazine in 2003 that Ms Clarkson had committed suicide and he had "no idea why".

Mr Spector, 68, is regarded as one of the most influential producers in the music business, having worked with acts including The Beatles, The Righteous Brothers, The Ramones and The Ronettes.

Ms Clarkson had small roles in B movies and US TV shows, and her biggest part came in the cult sci-fi movie Barbarian Queen.

Ms Clarkson's mother and sister were among spectators in the Los Angeles court on Wednesday.

Mr Spector faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison if he is found guilty of second degree murder.

The new trial is expected to last four months.

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