Spector's ex-girlfriend can testify about gunplay

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Phil Spector's ex-girlfriend can testify at his murder trial that the pioneering rock producer twice pointed guns at her head when she tried to leave his home, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision means that jurors will hear that Spector, who is accused of shooting B-movie actress Lana Clarkson to death in the foyer of his Los Angeles area home in 2003, has twice before engaged in what prosecutors call strikingly similar gun violence.

Spector's lawyers fought to bar the testimony of Devra Robitaille, his former girlfriend and employee, saying that her decades-old evidence was irrelevant to the case and could cause delays in the trial. Opening statements in the case are expected to begin in late April or early May.

But Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler rejected those arguments at pretrial hearing in the case, saying Robitaille's testimony could shed light on Spector's behavior on the night of the murder.

At the hearing, Fidler rejected a prosecution request to allow testimony by a retired New York City police officer who says that in the 1990s Spector ranted to him that all women "deserve to die."

Prosecutors say Robitaille will testify that after a party at Spector's home in the mid-1970s, the producer held a gun to her forehead, threatening to shoot her if she left. She is expected to tell jurors about a similar incident that she says occurred in the foyer of Spector's home in the mid-1980s.

Fidler has previously ruled that four other women can testify about Spector brandishing guns around them in the years from 1988 to 1995, but Robitaille contacted prosecutors only recently.

"The striking similarity between these incidents involving Ms. Robitaille and the shooting of Lana Clarkson is extremely probative evidence that addresses the core issues in this case," prosecutors said in court papers.

Jury selection began in March for Spector, 67, who is charged with murdering Clarkson, 40, on February 3, 2003.

Spector, best known for his innovative "Wall of Sound" recording technique and work with The Beatles, The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner and Cher, has said that Clarkson committed suicide for reasons he could not grasp.

Fidler has ruled that the trial can be broadcast live, making it the biggest celebrity case to be televised from Los Angeles since O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995, bringing scorn on the city's legal system.

Fifty news organizations have asked for seats.
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