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
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
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they meant to describe sitting positions.
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.