Phil Spector Trial: Dominick Dunne Drops By, A Juror Drops Out

The murder retrial of music-producing legend Phil Spector resumed today with the momentary return of Dominick Dunne, the Vanity Fair correspondent who'd sat through the first trial in all its melodramatic glory. Dunne arrived at Department 106 this morning solely for pleasure and had not come to town to report on it. Instead, he'd flown in for the Academy Awards (he's an Academy voter) and his magazine's post-Oscars party. Two things were immediately clear after talking to Dunne -- he's an ardent supporter of Barack Obama ("And I'm going to keep backing him!") and an admirer of Sean Penn's short but pointed acceptance speech at the Oscars.

"It was a great speech," Dunne says. "He didn't make a meal out of it."

Before beginning his midlife career as a novelist and celebrity

murder-trial correspondent, Dunne had been a Hollywood TV and movie

producer, and thought the decision to play down glamour at the Oscars

was a mistake -- "This is when we need it the most," he said. In a way the Vanity Fair party's new venue (the Sunset Tower on the Sunset Strip) reflected the changed Hollywood Dunne had found upon his return -- VF party's longstanding haunt, Morton's of Beverly Hills, has closed down, like so many other businesses in L.A.

On some levels the second Spector trial represents more of the same

diminution of glamour and expectations that has greeted Dunne during his

visit. This is, after all, a recession-era sequel that promises few of

the kind of surprises unveiled in the first trial. Spector and his

young wife Rachelle appeared in court at 9:45 a.m. today, accompanied

by only one bodyguard, and not the two or three who followed them

everywhere in 2007. (To get an idea of his incongruous entrances

during the first trial, picture the tiny Spector flanked by a trio of

Notorious B.I.G. impersonators.)

Then again, Spector only has one lawyer instead of

the five who won him a hung jury two years ago. There are seldom any

reporters from the mainstream media present, with the job of recording

the trial falling to the Trials & Tribulations blogger known as

Sprocket. Even the newer jury seems to lack the interesting idiosyncrasies and interpersonal dynamics that marked its predecessor.

It was jury

trouble that occupied the start of today's morning session. Juror No.

5, a thirtysomething man who last week requested to be cut from the panel on financial-hardship

grounds answered a few questions by Judge Larry Paul Fidler before

being thanked for his time and sent home. He was replaced through a

random draw by Alternate Juror No. 3, a woman. How this gender

balancing of the panel might affect Spector's chances are unclear.


the defendant is a classically handsome guy, women might be sympathetic

to him," says USC law professor Jean Rosenbluth. "But it depends on the

crime. Spector definitely doesn't want women on the jury, with what

he's charged."

What Spector is accused of is the murder of bit-actress Lana Clarkson in the wee hours of a February night in 2003. 

And the accused is being painted by prosecutors Alan Jackson and Truc

Do as a violent misogynist who had a pattern of threatening dates with

guns. Over Weinberg's objections, Do was allowed to play a recorded

telephone interview between Sheriff's Department Detective Richard

Tomlin and Vince Tannazzo, a former New York detective who worked as Joan Rivers' personal-security aide. During one

memorable encounter in the mid-1990s, Tannazzo was called upon to escort Spector from a

Christmas Party after Spector began brandishing a gun.


the audio CD Tannazzo says that during the elevator ride down from Rivers'

apartment, Spector confided to him his innermost feelings toward

Rivers' manager, Dorothy Melvin, and the fair sex in general:

"These fucking cunts all deserve to die! I should put a fucking bullet in this cunt's head!"


interview's sound quality was on par with that of a flight

recorder box that had been recovered from airliner crash, but jurors

followed along with a transcript and heard the hardened ex-cop marvel,

"Every other word out of his mouth was 'This fucking cunt!'"


stared at the table in front of him as the recording was played in

court, occasionally sipping from a bottle of orange drink.

During redirect, after

Do finished playing the interview, defense counsel Weinberg went to

town on Tomlin for not checking out Tannazzo's story (which the ex-New

York detective had suddenly offered shortly before the first trial

began) and accepting it at face value without verifying its details -- even though

Melvin, in several interviews with Tomlin, had never mentioned the incident.

Then Weinberg, who has proven himself a master of sowing doubt, asked

Tomlin to explain some discrepancies in the testimony of Spector's

Brazilian-born driver, Adriano De Souza, regarding the chaotic moments

following the gunshot that killed Clarkson -- a gunshot Spector claims

was self-inflicted but which prosecutors allege Spector fired.


hammered home the point (if indeed it was a point) that it was only later

police summaries of interviews with De Souza that present him as saying

he found Clarkson's body slump in a chair in the foyer of Spector's

home -- when he is directly quoted as saying he discovered Clarkson

lying on the floor. By the close of morning testimony, all the

beleaguered Tomlin could do was say that in his experience "people in

the Hispanic culture" often used the words "ground" or "floor" when

they meant to describe sitting positions.

With this

hairsplitting finished for the morning -- and revelations that the trial will last three more weeks before it goes to the jury -- Dominick Dunne said good-bye to

Clarkson's family and left. He would not be coming back.


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