Jury selection begins for Spector murder trial

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Jury selection in Phil Spector's murder trial started Monday with potential jurors being quizzed on their attitudes about celebrities and whether they get special treatment by the justice system.

The first 75 prospects marched into court as the legendary music producer sat expressionless at the counsel table with a lawyer, his hair in a sandy Beatles mop.

Jurors will be asked to decide if Spector was responsible for the death of Lana Clarkson, a B-movie actress who was shot in the face at his castle-like home on Feb. 3, 2003.

Spector's hairstyle and clothes Monday -- a long black coat, plants slacks and a tan shirt open at the collar -- were far more conservative than the wildly curly wigs he has worn in past court appearances.

The first question posed by Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler was whether prospective jurors could be available for a trial that will last about four months. A majority of the first 75 indicated they could serve. The judge accepted excuses from 26 prospects, left three in abeyance and ordered the rest to fill out questionnaires.

Fidler assured the panelists that they will not be photographed, although the trial will be televised from gavel to gavel.

"You are totally anonymous," he said. "No one knows your names. You are numbers."

Fidler said the court would do what it could to ensure that the news media, always aggressive in covering high-profile trials, leave the jury alone.

"I'm not concerned about the mainstream press," he said. "But nowadays there a lot of fringe members of the press. We will do everything possible to make sure you are not bothered."

He urged prospective jurors to answer questions truthfully.

"This trial is not about you," he said. "It's not for you to carry on a personal agenda or change the world."

The 18-page questionnaire, which was agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys, includes a category called "Attitudes about celebrities and high-profile people."

It asks jurors for opinions on 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."

The questionnaire also probes the prospective jurors' knowledge of the case.

Many questions deal with the prospective juror's knowledge of firearms, whether they have law enforcement personnel in their families and whether they have carried guns for protection.

The questionnaire concludes with two single-spaced type pages of names of possible witnesses. Jurors will be asked if they recognize any of the names and whether they have any personal connection with people on the witness list.

The judge said he believes he will have a sufficient panel by Tuesday from which to choose final the 12 jurors and six alternates for the case.

Those who filled out questionnaires were told to come back April 16 when in-court jury questioning will begin.
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