The long-awaited murder trial of legendary record producer Phil Spector began Monday with jury selection in a courtroom of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Once selected, the jury will hear arguments about whether Spector is to blame for the mysterious 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson inside his castle-style compound in Alhambra, Calif.
If convicted, Spector could face life in prison.
Clarkson was killed with an unregistered .38-caliber pistol, not from Spector's collection of firearms. According to pretrial hearings, he owned a dozen guns at the time.
Police reports show the gun was in Clarkson's mouth at the time the bullet discharged. Gun powder was found on her hands, and the coroner reported that her blood alcohol level was high.
Minutes after the shooting, Spector spoke with Adriano De Souza, his chauffeur, reportedly stating, "I think I killed someone." Spector later denied making such a statement and told friends Clarkson's death was an "accidental suicide."
Dubbed the "Tycoon of Teen," Spector oversaw the adolescence of rock 'n' roll during the early '60s with classic jukebox hits like "Be My Baby" and "Then He Kissed Me." He wrote his first No. 1 hit at the age of 16 and was a millionaire by age 21. His signature was a "wall of sound" layered vocals and instrumentation in a symphonic way, which gave pop songs impressive depth on the radio.
Long before Quincy Jones, Diddy or Pharrell Williams made their names as hitmakers, Spector's celebrated Midas touch gave him exalted status among artists such as The Beatles, Tina Turner, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers. Between 1961 and 1965 he produced 17 Top 40 hits. He enjoyed unprecedented control over the gamut of music production and publishing rights.
Mark Ribowsky, author of "He's a Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer," says Spector suffered from a massive Napoleon complex.
"He was a tiny, frail guy using music to make himself into a big guy. He was always overcompensating with music," Ribowsky said.
Despite Spector's brilliant talent and long list of hits, his demand for absolute control and his fits of rage tarnished his golden reputation.
"Unfortunately there was a dark side to Phil Spector that was kind of frightening at times," said Darlene Love, a former member of Spector's girl group The Blossoms. "He wanted to be in control, no matter who it was."
Firing off a gun was one way for Spector to maintain that control. He was known for his armed outbursts within the industry and at home.
"There was always a kind of theatrical danger around Phil Spector," said Anthony DeCurtis, a contributor to Rolling Stone magazine. "Certainly 20 or 25 years ago you would hear stories about firing off guns in the studio with John Lennon, or waving a pistol around the Ramones. It cultivated an air of mystery and danger that Spector had."
His ex-wife, Veronica "Ronnie" Spector, described horrible verbal abuse and his peculiar gun fetish to ABC News in 2003.
"The first three months of our marriage he pulled a gun, and I ran away because I was so afraid," she said.
Indeed, the eccentric behavior was not limited to his preoccupation with guns. Spector was also reportedly obsessed with his wigs and was known to stay home for days if a favorite wig was rumpled.