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With a Better Wig, the Phil Spector retrial set to begin with jury selection

LOS ANGELES — Five years after a blonde actress was found shot dead in his Los Angeles mansion, legendary music producer Phil Spector’s murder retrial begins today with the start of jury selection.

Spector, the eccentric musical genius who created the famous “Wall of Sound” recording technique, avoided conviction after a marathon six-month trial last year that ended with a jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of finding him guilty.

The stalemate was the latest twist in the legal saga that had seen Spector’s prosecution repeatedly delayed since the body of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson was found at the producer’s home in the early hours of February 3, 2003.

On Thursday, a pool of jurors will be given questionnaires aimed at finding what prior knowledge they have of the case, before formal vetting of jurors begins at Los Angeles Superior Court on October 14.

Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Southern California, said she expected Spector’s retrial to be “shorter and more streamlined” than the first.

“For a start, each side has seen the other’s presentation of the evidence so they aren’t going to be surprised,” Rosenbluth said. “Both sides know what’s coming and they’re going to have thought ahead on how to counter it.

“That could benefit the defense in terms of their expert witnesses. They know what holes the prosecution were able to poke into them the first time around so they’ll be much more focused.

“I think it will be streamlined because less people care. The world is not going to be watching as much as they were the first time.”

At his first trial, prosecutors alleged that Spector, 68, shot Clarkson as she attempted to leave his home after meeting him for the first time only hours earlier at the Hollywood nightclub where she worked.

Defense lawyers said Clarkson, 40, best-known for her role in Roger Corman’s 1985 cult classic “The Barbarian Queen” but whose career had stalled at the time of her death, killed herself.

Spector is regarded as one of the most influential figures in pop music history. In the early 1960s he was responsible for hits including “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby, Baby” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.'”

Famed for his work with The Beatles, Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes and The Ramones, Spector faces a minimum 15 years to life in prison if he is found guilty of second degree murder.

During last year’s trial, prosecutor Alan Jackson painted a picture of Spector as a gun-crazed eccentric with a “rich history of violence” towards women who attempted to leave him.

No fewer than five female acquaintances testified that Spector had threatened them at gunpoint in incidents dating back to the 1970s.

Spector’s former chauffeur also gave damaging evidence, telling jurors that on the night of the shooting his employer had emerged from a doorway clutching a pistol in a bloodied hand to say: “I think I killed somebody.”

Only weeks before Clarkson’s killing Spector gave a rare interview where he described himself as “relatively insane.”

Defense lawyers however argued there was no forensic evidence to convict Spector, pointing to the absence of gunshot residue on his hands and clothing.

Spector’s trial was the latest in a series of celebrity cases in California that have failed to end in a guilty verdict, following acquittals for O.J Simpson, “King of Pop” Michael Jackson and actor Robert Blake.

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