Jury Search In Phil Spector Murder Trial To Begin In Los Angeles

Monday, March 19th 2007, 9:25 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lana Clarkson, an actress best known as the star of the cult film "Barbarian Queen," was working as a hostess at the House of Blues when she met reclusive music producer Phil Spector.

Hours later, Clarkson was found slumped dead in a chair in the foyer of Spector's hilltop suburban castle, her teeth blown out by a gunshot blast.

On Monday, a judge was to begin the two-day search for jurors who will be asked to decide whether Spector, who created the "wall of sound" that revolutionized rock music, was responsible for Clarkson's death on Feb. 3, 2003.

Jurors will be asked to unravel conflicting evidence about what happened before police found Clarkson, 40.

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 bail since his arrest. Spector faces life in prison if convicted.

His New York lawyer, Bruce Cutler, said his defense will be simple: "He didn't shoot this woman." But prosecutors claim he placed the gun in her mouth and fired.

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

The jury is expected to be seated by April 30 when opening statements were scheduled to begin. The judge has ruled that the trial can be televised.

Spector's appearance may rivet TV audiences. His theatrical attire usually includes 3-inch-high boots, frock coats and outlandish wigs. Cutler is also known for flamboyant speeches in court.

Unlike the O.J. Simpson trial, where jurors' familiarity with the celebrity defendant was a huge issue, Spector's musical legacy may be dusty enough to escape notice by most younger prospective jurors.

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

"The defense may want music fans who have an appreciation for Phil Spector's mark on music history," said Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson. "But there won't be many of those in the jury pool, not even in Tinseltown."