LOS ANGELES – The murder case against record producer Phil Spector went to the jury Monday after Spector's wife sparred with the judge over a gag order and Spector himself publicly denied he had criticized the judge and jury pool.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler sent the jurors into deliberations after asking if any had heard or seen any news reports over the weekend that could affect their discussions. No one raised a hand.
The London newspaper The Mail on Sunday reported that Spector had said most of the prospective jurors thought he was either guilty or insane and Fidler "doesn't like me."
The newspaper said Spector made the remarks to a documentary filmmaker he spoke to over a five-month period. Spector denied it.
"I did not make those statements," Spector said as he arrived at the courthouse Monday. "They are reprehensible and false. Whoever made them on my behalf should be put in jail. I'm sure the jury will do a good job."
Fidler said nothing about the accuracy of the newspaper report, but he said in a short hearing outside the jury's presence: "I would think anyone who wants to make a comment like that to a jury that's about to deliberate their fate isn't thinking about it."
Spector, 67, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of actress Lana Clarkson, 40, who was shot through the mouth after going home with Spector from a nightclub on Feb. 3, 2003. He faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted.
Deliberations for the jury of nine men and three women began after five months of testimony.
Prosecutors sought to show during the trial that Spector had a history threatening women. The defense contended the actress killed herself.
Just before sending the case to the jury, Fidler slapped a gag order on Spector and his wife in a contentious hearing away from the jury on media contacts. Fidler said Rachelle Spector sent e-mails to reporters over the weekend pointing out a TV interview she had given, despite the fact that Fidler had warned her against such activity.
"Ma'am, I'm going to do something I've never done before," Fidler said. "You are here in the courtroom. You will not talk to the press ... until a verdict or other decision is arrived at in this case. If you do, you're in violation of my order and you know what I do to people who violate my orders."
Rachelle Spector began to talk back from the gallery.
"Ma'am, you're in front of me," the angered judge interjected. "You're in front of me! I'm making an order. You want to violate my order, go ahead and do so. I can assure you I will hold you in contempt of court for violating my order and I will treat it according."
She then began to argue, and the judge jumped in and again warned of consequences.
"That's right, I am talking to you, and what you need to do is listen," he said.
Fidler also admonished Spector and Clarkson's family not to speak to the press, though he noted that Clarkson's family had not done so.
Spector gained fame decades ago for what became known as the "Wall of Sound" recording technique. Clarkson was best known as the star of the 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen."