LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Legendary rock producer Phil Spector again faced the music of murder charges on Monday as formal jury selection got underway for his second trial in the death of an actress at his faux castle home in 2003.
With a new defense team behind him but the same judge presiding over his retrial, Spector, 68, returned to a Los Angeles court hoping to end the five-year nightmare that has overshadowed his status as a genius of 1960s pop music.
Spector’s first, five-month trial ended in September 2007 with the jury deadlocking 10-2 in favor of a guilty verdict. Under California law, a unanimous jury is needed to convict.
Spector, who pioneered the “Wall of Sound” technique used in 1960s recordings such as the Righteous Brothers hit “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling”, is charged with murdering Lana Clarkson 40 at his home on February 3 2003.
Clarkson, a B-movie actress who had met Spector only hours earlier while she was working as a night club hostess, was found dead of a gunshot to the mouth.
Potential jurors filled out detailed questionnaires earlier this month about their knowledge of the case. Lawyers for both sides on Monday began the 2-3 day process of selecting the 12 men and women who will make up the jury.
Criminal trial experts said Spector may fare worse this second time around.
“Statistically, the prosecution ends up doing better in a retrial because the defense has tipped its hand. Retrials are usually worse for the defendant,” Stan Goldman, professor of criminal law at Loyola Law School, told Reuters.
In a bid to secure a conviction of some sort, prosecutors might give the jury the option of convicting Spector on a lesser charge of manslaughter — something they firmly rejected last year, Goldman said. The sentence for manslaughter is 8-10 years in prison, compared to 20 years to life for murder.
“How many years would Spector last in prison anyway? He looked terrible last time, shivering and shaking,” said Goldman.
Spector did not testify the first time around, and he is not expected to take the stand in this new trail, which is expected to be swifter than the first.
Last year, the defense argued that Clarkson was depressed and took her own life.
Prosecutors countered by calling a series of women who testified that Spector had a history of brandishing guns at women when he was drunk. The women’s testimony provided a riveting counterpoint to largely forensic evidence, otherwise. Most of the women are expected to repeat their assertions in the new trial.
Spector first found fame as the mastermind behind popular 1960s girl groups and later worked with The Beatles, Cher, The Ramones and Tina Turner. None of his pop music friends testified in his defense.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte