Spector Murder Trial Nearing Jury Selection

A witness at Phil Spector's murder retrial will be allowed to testify that the record producer used incendiary language about women and once stated that they should be shot, a judge has ruled.

A witness at Phil Spector's murder retrial will be allowed to testify that the record producer used incendiary language about women and once stated that they should be shot, a judge has ruled.

California Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler yesterday (Oct. 16) rejected a defense motion to exclude the testimony, but said he would consider censoring a specific obscene word the witness says Spector used in describing women in the early 1990s.

Spector is charged with second-degree murder in the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson, 40, at his Alhambra, Calif., mansion. She died of a gunshot through the mouth while seated in a foyer. Spector's first trial ended a year ago when jurors deadlocked 10-2, with the majority in favor of conviction.

Lawyers are expected to begin questioning prospective jurors on Monday for the retrial.

The defense sought to exclude testimony by Vincent Tannazzo, a retired New York policeman who worked security at two of Joan Rivers' Christmas parties a year apart.

Tannazzo testified at the first trial that Spector was ousted from the parties and on both occasions he heard Spector say that women -- described with the obscene term -- "deserve a bullet in their (obscenity) heads" and that he should have shot the woman who invited him.

"In both cases, he says the exact same thing. This is not an off-the-cuff remark," prosecutor Alan Jackson told the judge. "It shows his state of mind regarding women."

Defense attorney Dennis Riordan responded: "The problem is a misogynistic attitude is not a basis for admission of evidence. But this is the theory of the government's case."

Fidler said there has been evidence of Spector's views on women from the time of Clarkson's death back to 1972. "It's a period going back 31 years," he said. "You have a long history of acts that indicate the defendant believes in violence toward women."

The judge said he was inclined to admit the testimony in the second trial, but "I was very concerned about the language."

Fidler said women have told him of having "a very visceral reaction to this word," and he was afraid of the prejudicial effect. But he told lawyers that if he does not decide to exclude it, they will be allowed to question prospective jurors about their reactions to it.

Jackson argued: "There is no justification for sanitizing it. Is it offensive? Yes it is. But it shows what Mr. Spector thought of Lana Clarkson."

Riordan stressed that the incidents occurred a decade before Spector met Clarkson.

Attorney Doran Weinberg, Spector's lead lawyer in the new trial, said he was concerned that the prosecution's remarks indicate the case "is going to be tried on a theory that Phil Spector hates women." He argued that Spector can't be tried for "having an attitude."

Spector, 69, famed for inventing the "Wall of Sound" recording technique, did not attend the hearing. Attorneys said he would be present for jury selection.

In the first trial, the defense suggested that Clarkson took a gun from a drawer in the foyer and shot herself. She had gone to Spector's home after meeting him hours earlier at her job as a nightclub hostess.


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