Spector's history with guns emerges at retrial

November 05, 2008|By Harriet Ryan | Harriet Ryan,Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - Prosecutors at Phil Spector's murder retrial have said repeatedly that certain circumstances - a late night, too much alcohol, a woman who didn't want him - made the legendary music producer reach for a gun.

In court yesterday, his defense presented another: being mistaken for the actor Dudley Moore.

Cross-examining a witness who claims Spector pistol-whipped her when they were dating, a defense lawyer raised another incident: a confrontation outside a New York club.

The witness, Dorothy Melvin, told jurors that a group of young men approached the music icon as he got out of a limousine and asked to shake his hand.

Spector was thrilled, she said, until one man crowed, "I can't believe we just met Dudley Moore!"

Irate at being confused with the diminutive star of the Arthur movies, Spector pulled a gun and began chasing the men down the street, Melvin said.

The account on the second day of testimony in the case, in which Spector is accused of murdering an actress, was notable because it was elicited by the defense. Since soon after his arrest in the 2003 shooting of Lana Clarkson, his lawyers have waged a vigorous and largely unsuccessful battle to keep prior incidents of gun violence away from jurors.

Judge Larry Paul Fidler has permitted the testimony of Melvin and four other women who allege that Spector menaced them at gunpoint in the three decades before the shooting.

His current attorney, Doron Weinberg, has objected to those witnesses as a "trial of Mr. Spector's character" rather than of the facts. But in questioning Melvin the lawyer brought up instances of bad behavior that prosecutors never even tried to get before the jury.

In addition to the case of mistaken identity at the New York club Elaine's, Weinberg questioned the witness about a 1991 incident in which Spector locked her in a room at New York's Waldorf Hotel.

"He said he wasn't going to let me out until I made a sincere commitment to civil rights," she said. "It was insane. We never discussed civil rights!"

Weinberg has attempted to draw for jurors a distinction between Spector's penchant for displaying firearms and the allegation of shooting Clarkson.

"It's true that he has waved guns, but he has never fired a gun at a living human being," he told them last week.

Melvin previously described a 1993 encounter in which an intoxicated Spector assaulted her with a gun.

Spector is being retried on charges of murdering Clarkson after the first jury deadlocked.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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