Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Phil Spector: The 'Mad Genius' of Rock'n'Roll

'I Feel Like My Pants Are Down'

Opening statements in the trial against famed record producer Phil Spector began on April 25, 2007, in Los Angeles Superior Court. Spector is charged with the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson told the jury that Spector "put a loaded pistol in her mouth and shot her to death." Jackson promised to show that Spector had a history of threatening women with guns and would call four women to the stand who had survived the defendant's alcohol-fueled, gun-toting rages. Clarkson, he said, was "simply the last in a very long line of women who have been victimized by Phil Spector."

Phil Spector in court
Phil Spector in court

A furor broke out in the courtroom after the prosecution's opening statement, when the defense learned that the government would not present statements that Spector had made to the police at the crime scene. Under California law, a defendant's statements are barred from the trial as hearsay unless they are introduced by the prosecution. In previous hearings, the prosecution had fought to have Spector's statements admitted.

Lana Clarkson
Lana Clarkson

Spector's lead attorney, Bruce Cutler, told Judge Larry Fidler, "I feel like my pants are down and I'm naked before the court." Part of Cutler's defense strategy depended on the inclusion of those statements.

The police officers who arrived at Spector's Alhambra mansion on the night of the murder recorded him disparaging the victim, calling her "a piece of shit." Spector was captured on audiotape saying, "And I don't know what her f—king problem was, but she certainly had no right to come to my f—king castle, blow her f—king head open."

The defense had hoped to use their client's agitated ranting to support their contention that Clarkson took her own life and Spector was angry and upset that she had done it in his house.

"It's completely unfair," Cutler complained vehemently.

"It's called the law," Judge Fidler shot back.

Spector's 'Castle'
Spector's "Castle"

Cutler is Spector's third attorney after the dismissals of Robert Shapiro, who was part of O.J. Simpson's "Dream Team," and Leslie Abramson, who had defended Erik Menendez for the murder of his parents. Cutler, who is best known as mobster John Gotti's lawyer, has clashed with Judge Fidler over his abrasive Brooklyn style. The judge has warned him not to approach or threaten witnesses and to examine them from the attorney's lectern, as is the rule in Los Angeles.

The day after the prosecution presenting their opening statement, Cutler presented the defense's. He said that Lana Clarkson's death was a tragedy, but it was a suicide, and as reported by Court TV News, suggested that she had used the gun as a "sexual prop." The judge sustained nearly a dozen objections to comments that the prosecution felt were either "irrelevant or argumentative."

Front-row spectators included Clarkson's mother, Donna; her sister, Fawn; and Spector's 26-year-old wife, Rachelle Short.

 

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