The Darwin Exception

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CA vs. Spector – Back to Business

Posted by thedarwinexception on July 9, 2007

Finally! Today court was back in session after 10 days with no testimony. And apparently Phil took the time over the hiatus to go wig shopping, since he is now sporting a shaggy brown hairdo that somehow makes him look like a reject from the Back Street Boys.

Court starts out with hearings and motions, and the judge asking to hear the testimony of Vincent Tannazzo, the former NYPD Detective who says that Phil Spector told him that all women deserved a bullet in their heads. Judge Fidler had previously ruled that this witness’s testimony was to be excluded because it was too remote in time, and the particular phrase that Tannazzo says Spector used was “too inflammatory for the jury”. In the interim, the defense had asked prosecution witnesses about the “kinder, gentler” Phil Spector, and the jury happened to hear the inflammatory phrase out of Spector’s own mouth courtesy of nasty messages that he had left on one of the witnesses answering machine, so the prosecution wants to revisit the admissibility of Tannazzo’s testimony.

Tannazzo takes the stand outside the presence of the jury, and starts by outlining his credentials with the NYPD and, after retiring 17 years later, his self employment as a New York Licensed Investigator and his security firm that was employed by such people as Joan Rivers, which is where he first came into contact with Ms. Rivers manager, Dorothy Melvin and her one time boyfriend, Phil Spector.

Tannazzo tells the judge about Joan Rivers annual Christmas party, held in the afternoon of Christmas day and attended by up to 150 of her closest friends. It was during this annual gala, two years running, that he was forced into a new Holiday tradition – that of throwing Phil Spector out of the building for calling women “fucking cunts” and threatening to shoot someone in the head.

Tannazzo told a totally engrossing and riveting tale of two Christmas parties – eerily similar in their outcomes.

He was working security for Joan Rivers’ Christmas party in Manhattan in either 93, 94, 95 or 96 – “somewhere in the mid 90’s”. As was usual for such an event he arrived early and got a guest list from Ms. Rivers. He noticed that Phil Spector’s name was on the guest list – not a total surprise, as he knew that Dorothy Melvin was dating him.

He went down to his post in the lobby to let guests in and kind of keep an eye on how they arrived, and where their cars and limos were parked, since as a little added service to the guests he would walk them out to their cars as they left.

Spector arrived with his limo driver, who was toting a keyboard, sometime later. Tannazzo recognized Spector and allowed him up to Ms. Rivers apartment.

Within an hour or two of Spector’s arrival, the doorman receieved a phone call which he gave to Tannazzo. Tannazzo was “90% sure” that the person on the other end of the phone was Dorothy Melvin. She told Tannazzo “Vinny, get up here, Phil Spector just pulled a gun.”

Tannazzo told the judge he unholstered his own weapon and took the small elevator up to the apartment of Joan Rivers. He said that when he exited the elevator into the foyer area outside of the apartment that he was met by Spector and Melvin, who were leaving. He took the elevator down to the lobby with them, and while in the elevator he patted down Spector and determined that he did, indeed, have a handgun in the waistband of his pants. “I felt the butt, the hammer, and carrying a gun for almost 40 years, I knew what it felt like. And I knew it was a gun,” he said.

He said that all the while he was with Spector and Melvin, Spector was raving and ranting in a “louder than normal” voice “That fucking cunt! That fucking cunt!” He repeated the phrase numerous times.

Once in the lobby, Phil headed towards the door still spewing venom about “That fucking cunt” and at one point reached under his jacket towards the area that Tannazzo knew held the handgun. Tannazzo told the judge that when he saw Spector do this he told Spector “If you pull out that gun, I’ll blow your fucking brains out.” It was at this point that Spector calmed down some, telling Tannazzo “I’m cool, I’m cool, I like cops…I just want my keyboard.”

When they reached Spector’s limo, Tannazzo directed the driver to go up to Rivers apartment and retrieve Spector’s keyboard. Tannazzo got in the back of the limo with Spector “to keep an eye on him” and Spector again started telling Tannazzo how cool he was with cops, even pulling out a badge at one point and announcing that he was, himself, a Sheriff in North Carolina. He also produced a permit for Tannazzo, explaining that since “These fucking cunts all deserve bullets in their heads” he was licensed “everywhere” to carry a “piece”, and that was why he was armed wherever he went.

Tannazzo, unimpressed with the badge and the permit, waited for the limo driver to return with Spector’s keyboard, and when he did Tannazzo exited the vehicle and watched them drive away.

The following year, Rivers again threw a Christmas party, Tannazzo again was the armed security presence, and he again arrived early the day of the party to review the guest list. This time he was quite surprised to see Phil Spector’s name on the guest list.

He saw Phil Spector enter the building and allowed him to go up to Rivers apartment. About an hour later, Spector was back in the lobby with Melvin in tow. He was again shouting the phrase that Tannazzo had heard him utter the previous year: “That fucking cunt! That fucking cunt!” The elevator doors opened as Melvin and Spector were in the lobby. Tannazzo doesn’t recall exactly who it was that exited the elevator, but does remember that it was a woman and that Phil Spector walked towards her shouting “I should put a fucking bullet in your head right now!” At this point Tannazzo said he had had quite about enough and he grabbed Spector by the lapels and physically dragged him across the lobby, out the front door and threw him into his limo. Melvin got into the limo after Spector and Tannazo asked her if she was going to be ok. When she said she would be fine, he closed the limo door and went back into the building.

On cross examination Roger Rosen implies that Tannazzo is embellishing his story since his deposition, and that some parts of his testimony don’t match up with the three page report that was prepared after his initial interview. Tannazzo tells Rosen after every question about omissions that he had told investigators the same thing, and that what they put in their report was out of his control. On re-direct the prosecution brings out the actual transcript of the interview and points out that Tannazzo did, indeed, include all the things the defense had said were not in the report.

Tannazzo is excused for the moment while the attorneys argue to Judge Fidler why they believe Tannazzo’s testimony should or should not be included. The prosecution argues that the testimony is probative and relevant to their case in chief because it buttressess their central thesis, that Phil Spector is misogynistic and hateful towards women. The defense argues that nothing has changed since Fidler’s last ruling on this matter and they ask the court to simply uphold it’s previous ruling.  Rosen said the comments were directed at a specific person, not all women, and that the remarks were so vulgar that they would prejudice jurors against Spector. “What it really is is character assassination. That’s really all it is,” said Rosen.

When the attorneys finish their pleadings the Judge very thoughtfully says that he has re-read the prosecution’s brief and that he doesn’t know why, maybe it was because of the word “cunt ” – which he doesn’t use in court because, he says “his wife is watching”, but that he had overlooked before in the prosecution’s filings that Spector actually used the words “bullet in the head”. He said that this is why he wanted to hear Tannazzo’s testimony before he made a ruling. He wanted to know if this was really what Tannazzo was going to say Spector said. Judge Fidler  says Tannazzo’s testimony indicates Spector has a way of solving problems with women: “I’ll shoot them in the head. And in this case, you have a woman who was shot in the head. That’s extremely probative,” Fidler says. The judge also said the testimony “tends to show the depth of Mr. Spector’s anger.”

So after a short recess, Tanazzo got on the stand and told the story again – this time to the jury.

But he wasn’t cross examined after his direct testimony. First Dennis Stark, a paramedic from LA, gave his testimony.

At first it was difficult to determine exactly why Stark was there – he testified about being a paramedic, about their training procedures and about his history and experience. It wasn’t until he got to the part about answering a call to a single family residence and finding a woman inside with bilateral wrist fractures that we realize he must be the paramedic who treated Lana when she broke her wrists.

Indeed, he was. And he testified about the call, about giving Lana morphine as she was “in excruciating pain”, and he testified that although he smelled alcohol on her breath, his partner did not check off the box indicating that she was “under the influence”.

It is difficult to know exactly what this witness is supposed to prove for the defense. Is it that Lana was given the 10 milligrams of morphine,  since Rosen seems to dwell on this point. But his witness testifies that this wasn’t an extraordinary dose and that, in fact, they were authorized by the hospital to give Clarkson up to 20 milligrams. Is it that Lana was drunk at the time of the accident? Again, his own witness testifies that it seemed to be a Christmas party, and that all the guests were drinking and having a good time, not uncommon for a Christmas party, and it’s not like Lana was driving at the time of the incident.

Maybe the defense really called this witness only for the chance to have him identify her in the picture they introduce of Lana. Unlike the professional head shot that the prosecution has used throughout the trial, showing a close up of Lana’s face with her beaming smile and laughing eyes, the defense throws a picture on the monitor showing a group of people and asks the witness to pick Lana out of the crowd. It’s a snapshot taken at a table with a group of obviously partying friends, and Clarkson is surrounded by four men and two women. There’s a bottle of wine on the front of the table and at least one of the partier’s is holding his drink up toasting the camera. Clarkson is smiling and has one bare leg and leather sandal on the table. The picture is a direct contrast to the prosecution’s Soccer mom photo. This one says “Party Animal”.

After Daniel Stark is excused, Tannazzo retakes the stand for his cross examination, which is basically a repeat of the cross that was held earlier before the judge, with a few choice tidbits added, and a new voice heard – this one from the jury box.

Roger Rosen implies that Tannazzo’s story doesn’t make sense. Why would he allow Spector into the second Christmas party if he’d been armed and dangerous at the first? “You just let him go up with all that knowledge you had from the year prior,” Rosen says incredulously.

He also notes that the detective didn’t inspect a permit that Spector proffered to see if he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

“I had other things on my mind,” Tannazzo says.

Then Rosen accuses Tannazzo of having changed the quote he ascribed to Spector on the witness stand.  Didn’t you tell investigators he said “I ought to put a bullet in her head right now,” but when you testified on direct, didn’t you add “and blow her fucking brains out”?

Tannazzo denies it. He says he never testified to any such thing. The prosecutors agree with their witness, and say they never heard that. The judge says he can’t remember and they will have to wait for a transcript tomorrow.

Suddenly, from the jury box, a man’s voice says loudly, “He didn’t say it.”

Everyone turns toward the jury.

“He didn’t say it,” the juror repeats. “He didn’t say it.”

There’s nervous chuckling and the judge says, “As much as I appreciate the input…” and says he will rely on the transcript.

The next witness is John Barons, a writer/bartender who wrote and staged a play called “Brentwood Blondes”. His description of the play is that of “an exploration of the possibility of an afterworld through the eyes of three famous Brentwood blondes who lost their lives at the hands of famous men – Marilyn Monroe, Sharon Tate and Nicole Brown Simpson.” (No, I shit you not, that’s what he said.)

“Objection,” Dixon cries from the prosecution table.

The judge and defense attorney Rosen look puzzled and they both look at him like “Objection to what? That he wrote such a stupid ass play?”

“Assumes facts not in evidence with regards to Marilyn Monroe,” he says, which made me spit soda all over the monitor of my computer, and I was a little puzzled as to why no one else laughed. Personally, I thought it was the best line of the trial so far.

For some unknown reason, Lana was very thrilled and excited to be in the running for the role of Marilyn Monroe in this stupid and tasteless production.

In December of 2002 Barons told her that she had won the role and that rehearsals would begin the following month. Barons testified that Lana was thrilled and that she confided to him that she idolized Monroe and was very excited to be portraying her.

In January she was having some trouble with the first scene, which included three separate monologues. Barons testified that she came to his apartment for them to work on the scene together, and that they ended up breaking the scene down so that the monologues were in smaller parts.

The next day, she came to a group rehearsal and as she walked into the room, she announced that the previous night she and Barons had “rewritten the script” much to the surprise and chagrin of the collected cast.

This pissed Barons off, and this incident, coupled with some other problems he was having with Lana personality wise, forced him to call her less than a month after she had been hired, to tell her that her services were no longer needed.

Court ended for the day at this point in the testimony, but there was a short conference before the judge after the jury had left wherein Alan Jackson, lead prosecution attorney demanding that the defense not just throw pictures up on the monitor without first consulting the prosecution about their content. Seems the defense’s “party girl” picture wasn’t quite to his liking. The judge agreed with the prosecutor and acknowledged that the subtext of the picture was a little out of line. The defense also offered some upcoming testimony snippets – something about a girl named Tina who asked Barons for some vicodin, and Barons assertion that Lana was present and asked him for some vicodin, as well.

This will probably all be testified to tomorrow.

Wednesday afternoon will be dark, as a juror has a prior commitment. One wonders why commitments couldn’t have been taken care of during the 10 day vacation, but, shit happens.


One Response to “CA vs. Spector – Back to Business”

  1. Hatpin said

    Not normally the kind of thing I’d be interested, celebs and all that, but this trial is oddly compelling. It’s probably the excellent way you’re describing it.

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