LOS ANGELES – A jury of seven men and five women was sworn in for the murder retrial of music producer Phil Spector and attorneys began searching for six alternates, revealing that the ghost of another trial — the O.J. Simpson murder case — hangs over the current proceedings.
The Spector trial is under way in a courtroom down the hall from where Simpson was acquitted 13 years ago in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
And the jury consultant who aided the Las Vegas prosecution that recently won an armed robbery conviction of Simpson is now assisting Los Angeles prosecutors in picking jurors.
Spector, whose "Wall of Sound" recording technique made him a major figure in rock music, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, 40, at his home in 2003.
Spector's first trial ended last year in a 10-2 deadlock leaning toward conviction. His defense had argued that the actress, despondent about her fading career, shot herself through the mouth.
Spector, 68, has a new defense attorney, Doron Weinberg, and his theory of the case will be evident when attorneys deliver opening statements next Wednesday.
It took less than four days to select the jury, ending Thursday. Six replacement jurors must be chosen before Wednesday.
Much of the questioning of prospective alternates by Weinberg and Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson focused on Spector's celebrity and the impact the Simpson trial had on perceptions of the justice system.
Two women prospects said they watched Simpson's murder trial on TV and were shocked at the verdict.
"He seemed guilty to me," one woman, a paralegal, said. "I completely think he got off. I was upset."
Another woman, who said she followed all celebrity cases including those of Simpson, Robert Blake and Spector's first trial, had written on her jury selection questionnaire that celebrities tend to manipulate the law. Asked what she meant, she said, "I meant their lawyers. I felt they manipulated the system. I think they sometimes took people's eyes off what happened and distracted them."
Weinberg asked: "So your opinion was the defendants were clearly guilty?"
"Sitting in my house, yes," she said.
"And you thought the lawyers were being dishonest and tried to fool the jury?" he asked.
The woman hesitated and answered, "I was judging from my living room. I learned a lot here these last few days. I don't think you'd do that."
She said she watched "everything" in the first Spector trial and concluded he was guilty. But she added she would have a hard time finding him or anyone else guilty.
"I would have a hard time with someone going to jail for the rest of his life," she said.
Another woman said she knew little about the case but recognized the defendant.
"I just know him from the hair," she said of Spector, who has been known for his wild hairdos.
"I saw him and I thought I could do a good hair style for him," she said to laughter. The woman said she is a retired cosmetologist.
Looking over at Spector, whose hair was in a more subdued shoulder-length bob, she said, "It looks better now."
At day's end, she and the two women who spoke about Simpson had been dismissed and selection of the alternate panel was to resume Monday.