Jurors deliberating in Phil Spector murder trial

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jurors began deliberating on Monday in Phil Spector’s murder trial, going behind closed doors to consider the fate of the pioneering rock producer after an often bitter, five-month court fight over the shooting death of an actress at his home.

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The jury of nine men and three women began their deliberations after Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler gave them a set of final instructions on the law -- and took part in a testy exchange with Spector’s wife over a television interview she gave about the case.

Spector, 67, faces 15 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the second-degree murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who was shot to death in the foyer of his Los Angeles-area mock castle on February 3, 2003.

Prosecutors say the gun may have gone off accidentally after an inebriated Spector jammed it in Clarkson’s mouth when she tried to leave the turreted mansion. They put on evidence that the reclusive rock figure had a history of brandishing guns at the women in his life, often after drinking.

Spector’s lawyers argue that Clarkson was holding the gun herself when it was fired, possibly committing suicide or behaving recklessly because she was depressed over her stalled film career and other personal issues.

The 40-year-old actress, best-known for such B movies as “Barbarian Queen” and “Amazon Women on the Moon,” met Spector while working as a hostess at the House of Blues nightclub on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.

Fidler’s exchange with Spector’s wife, Rachelle, came as he tried to admonish her for a TV interview she gave in recent days.

When Rachelle Spector, 27, shot back that she was “not a witness” in the case, a clearly irked Fidler rebuked her again, threatening “consequences” if she violated his orders.

Spector, a legendary figure in rock music for his pioneering “Wall of Sound” recording technique and work with the Beatles, The Ronettes, Tina Turner and Cher, did not testify in his own defense during the trial.

He told Esquire magazine in an interview that Clarkson had shot herself to death kissing the gun in a bizarre suicide that he could not understand.