Jury search begins in Phil Spector murder trial in Los Angeles

Jury selection began in Los Angeles the murder trial of legendary music producer Phil Spector, four years after an actress who starred in a cult movie was shot to death in the foyer of his castle-like home.

Jurors will be asked to decide whether Spector was responsible for the death of Lana Clarkson, who was shot in the face Feb. 3, 2003.

They will consider conflicting evidence about what happened before police found Clarkson, 40, slumped dead in a chair, her teeth blown out by a gunshot to her mouth.

Clarkson was best known as the star of Roger Corman's cult film "Barbarian Queen." She was working as a hostess at the House of Blues when she went home with Spector that night.

The coroner's office called it a homicide - "death by the hand of another" - but also noted that Clarkson had gunshot residue on both of her hands and may have pulled the trigger.

In an e-mail to friends, Spector, 66, called the death "an accidental suicide." He has pleaded not guilty and has been free on $1 million (EUR 750,000) bail since his arrest. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Spector, who created the "wall of sound" that revolutionized the recording of rock music, was present as members of a prospective jury pool entered the downtown courtroom.

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler told the prospective jurors the trial could last about four months. He excused 43 of the 150 processed Monday. More were to be screened Tuesday.

"Mr. Spector, like anyone who would be in his position, finds this to be a very intimidating and scary process," defense attorney Roger Rosen said outside court.

Another one of his lawyers, Bruce Cutler, said his defense will be simple: "He didn't shoot this woman." But prosecutors claim Spector placed the gun in her mouth and fired.

After two days of the jury selection process, lawyers will take a one-month break. There is a pretrial hearing April 9 to read the prospective jurors' answers and hone their jury selection strategy. On April 16, jurors are to be questioned individually.

Opening statements are to begin April 30. The judge has ruled that the trial can be televised.

Spector's theatrical attire usually includes 3-inch-high boots, frock coats and outlandish wigs. Spector's appearance Monday - a long black coat, slacks and a tan shirt open at the collar - was far more conservative.

"I have never had a conversation with Mr. Spector about how he should dress in court and if I did he wouldn't pay attention," Rosen said outside court.

Legal experts say that while Spector is a legend in the music business, the celebrity factor is likely to be minimal because only older members of the public are aware of his impact on pop music in the 1960s.

An 18-page questionnaire asks prospective jurors whether celebrities feel they are "entitled to act however they please," whether they "have bad tempers and act aggressively" and whether they think "they can bend the rules." It also probes their knowledge of the case and of firearms.

Spector produced the Beatles' "Let It Be" album and George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh," and has been cited as an influence by Bruce Springsteen and countless other artists.

Spector also wrote such rock classics as "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Be My Baby," "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" and "River Deep-Mountain High," although his name is rarely mentioned along with the artists who recorded the songs.

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