Testimony: Phil Spector threatened to shoot women in the head

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Music producer Phil Spector is shown during his murder trial at the Los Angeles Superior Court in Los Angeles, Monday, July 9, 2007. Spector is accused of murder in the February 2003 shooting death of Lana Clarkson. (AP Photo/Gabriel Bouys, Pool)

LOS ANGELES -- The judge in Phil Spector's murder trial decided Monday to let jurors hear from a celebrity security guard who says he heard the record producer rant against women and declare they should all be shot in the head.

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler had previously decided against allowing the testimony, but he said he reconsidered when the issue was raised again by the prosecution at the end of its case.

The judge said that although the comments may have been made as long ago as 1993, they were relevant to questions of Spector's state of mind toward women. He said he was struck by the specificity of Spector's comments about shooting women in the head.

Actress Lana Clarkson was killed Feb. 3, 2003, by a bullet fired through her mouth while she was at Spector's home.

"In this case, you have a woman who is shot in the head," Fidler said. "It is highly particularized."

The judge also said the testimony "tends to show the depth of Mr. Spector's anger."

Clarkson had been working as a nightclub hostess when she met Spector and agreed to go to his suburban mansion after work. Prosecutors claim Spector, 67, shot Clarkson in his foyer as she prepared to leave. Spector's defense claims Clarkson shot herself.

Prosecutor Alan Jackson said the security guard's testimony "sheds a probative light on how he felt about Lana Clarkson. ... It shows a misogynistic state of mind, how he feels about women."

Defense attorney Roger Rosen denounced the testimony as "character assassination" and said it should be excluded.

The defense has already begun its side of the case, but the judge's ruling allowed the prosecution to reopen its case to call him to the stand.

When jurors returned to the courtroom, Vincent Tannazzo, a retired New York City police detective, testified about providing security for two Christmas parties given by comedian Joan Rivers in Manhattan.

In both instances, a year apart, he said he wound up ejecting Spector from the parties.

He testified that on the first occasion, Dorothy Melvin, Rivers' manager, called him at his post outside the party. "She said, 'Vinnie, get up here. Phil Spector just pulled out a gun,"' Tannazzo testified.

Tannazzo said he removed his gun, went upstairs and escorted Spector and Melvin into an elevator where he gave Spector a "light pat down" and could feel a gun in his waistband.

When Spector made a move for his waist on the way out of the party, Tannazzo said, "I didn't know what he was going to do. I told Phil Spector if he pulls out that gun I'll blow his [expletive] brains out."

He said Spector became conciliatory at that point, produced a gun permit and then made a comment about women deserving to be shot in the head.

Melvin, who was dating Spector then, testified earlier in the trial about being held by Spector at gunpoint when she tried to leave his home.

Tannazzo said he was surprised to find Spector's name on the guest list again for a Christmas party at Rivers' apartment a year later. He said the previous incident was repeated again, with Melvin calling him to escort the profanity-spewing Spector outside.

This time, he said, another woman walked out while Spector was leaving and "Phil Spector looked at her and said, 'That [expletive]. I ought to put a bullet in her head right now."'

"Phil Spector said that?" prosecutor Pat Dixon said in mock astonishment.

"Yes," said the witness. "He started taking a few steps toward her ... I grabbed him and said, 'That's it' and took him out of the building and put him in the car. He was followed by Dorothy Melvin."

He said they left in the limousine together and he didn't see Spector again until he saw him in court.

Spector rose to fame in the 1960s with a recording technique known as the "Wall of Sound." Clarkson, 40, was a struggling actress best known for her role in the 1985 film "Barbarian Queen."

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