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Phil Spector Trial Gets Underway

Four years after B-movie actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death at Phil Spector's home outside Los Angeles, opening statements are set to begin on Wednesday in the pioneering rock producer's murder trial.

Spector's fame as an enigmatic and reclusive rock genius and the mystery of Clarkson's death in the foyer of his imposing mock-castle have made the case worldwide news.

Officials expect about 50 reporters to pack the courtroom.

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler will allow cameras to televise what promises to be the biggest celebrity court case since Michael Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005.

Prosecutors are expected to open the case, which could last for up to three months, by recounting Spector's history of brandishing guns at women. They will try to prove that he shot Clarkson in the mouth on February 3, 2003, possibly while trying to prevent her from leaving the mansion.

Fidler has allowed prosecutors to take testimony from five women who are expected to say that Spector -- famed for the "wall-of-sound" recording technique that has been credited with changing the course of popular music in the 1960s -- threatened them with guns.

Spector's lead attorney, Bruce Cutler, is expected to respond with suggestions that Clarkson, the 40-year-old star of such films as "Amazon Women on the Moon" and "Barbarian Queen," killed herself.

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers say forensic evidence and the autopsy performed on Clarkson support their version of events.

It is not clear if Spector, who has shunned the public eye for decades and has described himself as battling internal "devils," will testify at the trial.

Police say Spector told the first officers on the scene that he had killed Clarkson by accident. But he told Esquire magazine in an interview shortly after his arrest that Clarkson "kissed the gun," committing suicide for reasons he did not understand.

Los Angeles judges have been reluctant to allow cameras in court since the 1995 acquittal of actor and former football star O.J. Simpson on murder charges after a trial telecast live that brought sharp criticism of the city's justice system.

The jury includes a senior NBC News producer who worked on the Jackson trial.  By Dan Whitcomb, LOS ANGELES (Reuters)

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