LOS ANGELES – The search for a jury in the murder trial of legendary record producer Phil Spector focused immediately on the power of celebrities in Los Angeles and whether they have an advantage over other defendants.
"Do you think that people of wealth or fame are treated differently in the court system?" asked a written questionnaire submitted to more than 100 prospective jurors on Monday. More prospects were expected to fill out the 18-page questionnaire on Tuesday.
The questionnaire, which was agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys, includes a category called "Attitudes about celebrities and high-profile people."
Panelists were asked 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."
Prospects were asked to say if they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: "Celebrities and high profile people in Los Angeles get away with crimes because of their status." They were also asked if they believed that "police are more lenient with celebrities and high profile people."
The completed forms will be given to prosecution and defense lawyers to study before in-court jury questioning begins April 16.
Jury selection opened four years after Lana Clarkson, a glamorous actress who starred in a cult movie, was shot to death in the foyer of Spector's castle-like home on Feb. 3, 2003.
The final jury 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, 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. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
"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. "There couldn't be a more difficult time in his life."
Spector, who created the "Wall of Sound" that revolutionized how rock music was recorded, came to court with his wife, Rachelle, who was described by Rosen as an actress and singer. They were married in September.
Spector's normally theatrical attire was a bit toned down for the court appearance. He sported a sandy Beatles-style hairdo, rather than an outlandish wig. He wore a long black coat, tan slacks and a tan shirt open at the collar, as well as his trademark platform boots.
"I have never had a conversation with Mr. Spector about how he should dress in court," said Rosen, "and if I did, he wouldn't pay attention."