Belli, Melvin

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Belli, Melvin Gender: M
Melvin Mouron Belli
born on 29 July 1907 at 08:00 (= 08:00 AM )
Place Sonora, California, 37n59, 120w23
Timezone PST h8w (is standard time)
Data source
From memory
Rodden Rating A
Collector: Penfield
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_leocol.18.gif 05°22' s_mo.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 05°55 Asc.s_vircol.18.gif 10°19'


American attorney from 1933, noted for being colorful and compelling in the courtroom. A flamboyant legal legend, he relished courtroom confrontations and won over $300 million for his clients, pioneering the jury-winning technique of dramatically demonstrating evidence during trial.

He first devised his presentation of graphic evidence while defending Ernie Smith, a San Quentin inmate accused of murdering another prisoner. Smith claimed that the other man had pulled a knife on him and the prosecution declared that knives were not allowed in prison. To prove his point, Belli not only presented evidence of a box full of confiscated knives, but when delivering the box for display to the jury, "tripped" and fell, spilling knives all over the floor. The shocked jury acquitted Smith. Such timing of dramatic evidence produced the kind of result "when you can hear the angels sing and the cash registers ring," said Belli.

As one of the top litigators, he and his many celebrity clients were well covered by the media, clients who ranged from Errol Flynn and Mae West to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

In his 1976 autobiography, "My Life on Trial," he wrote that he always knew, even as a child, that he would be a lawyer one day. The only child of a banker, he moved to Stockton with his family as a kid. He found his oratorical voice in high school, finding that public speaking was intoxicating to himself and enchanting to his classmates.

He attended Berkeley, graduating in 1929. After working his way to Europe on a freighter, he got a job as a blackboard marker in a San Francisco brokerage, and sailed to the Orient as a seaman with Dollar Steamship Lines. In the fall of 1930, Belli enrolled in UC's Boalt Hall and graduated 13th in his law class.

He found work during the Depression as an undercover investigator for the federal National Recovery Administration, developing his sympathy for the underdog and the outcast.

Craving both publicity and paying clients, the new lawyer with the exhibitionist flair staged his first news conference in 1936. He told reporters that he had just persuaded British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden to make a phone call, on behalf of his client.

In both his criminal and civil cases, Belli turned the courtroom in theater, complete with props, costumes and high drama. He himself dressed with sartorial elegance in tailored Western cut gray suits lined in red silk with a red silk handkerchief and black calf-high snake skin boots. In his heyday, he was a master of timing and elocution. His voice was velvet or thunder, a symphony or a snare drum and it was said that he could charm cobras out of their baskets. His opulent San Francisco office was said to resemble a Gold Rush whorehouse. He cherished, adored, revered and celebrated every victory.

Worldwide recognition first touched him when he defended Jack Ruby, who had fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald on national TV in 1963. In trial after trial, he relied on a legal precedent he first established in a 1944 victory over Coca-Cola. The principle of absolute liability, in which manufacturers are automatically liable for injury caused by their product, set the stage for later consumer protection litigation.

Belli loved all things bright and beautiful, kinky and flawed, good wines, great tables, wide travels and beautiful women. He savored his Rolls Royce, his yacht and spacious homes, and most of all, he loved the law. The author of 62 books including the six-volume "Modern Trials," he had a successful sub-career on the lecture circuit.

Belli married his sixth wife, the much-younger Nancy Ho on 3/29/1996; he had five kids from prior marriages. His first wife was Betty Ballatine in 1933. Their divorce after 18 years was so bitter that she had the surnames of their four kids changed to her maiden name and never spoke to Belli again. His second wife was magazine photographer Toni Nichols, whom he married six months after his divorce. Two years later, their separation left her with a black eye. Third was airline attendant Joy Turney in 1956 for ten years, the mother of his son Caesar Melvin. His fourth marriage was in Japan in a traditional Shinto ceremony to San Francisco society hostess Pat Montandon, annulled 34 days later. Fifth was 23-year-old art student Lia Triff in 1972, when he was 65. That marriage, which produced one daughter, Melia, ended after 16 years in another scandal-wracked divorce. He accused her of outrageous affairs and she accused him of abusing her and trying to have her shot.

Toward the end of his life he was enmeshed in legal battles himself with former partners, facing an array of malpractice suits and owning a mountain of debts, including hundreds of thousands in back taxes. Accused of senility and inattention to his business, he lost a $3.8 million judgment in 1985. He was accused of caring more for publicity than his clients, and of being ill-prepared on his cases. In 1992, he and his partners disagreed so violently over the direction of the firm that it resulted in suits and counter suits. The firm dissolved the following year.

Belli had pancreatic cancer and an incapacitating stroke in early July. He had pneumonia when he died on 7/09/1996 at his San Francisco home.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • spouse relationship with Montandon, Pat (born 26 December 1928). Notes: Bitter
  • role played of/by Cox, Brian (born 1 June 1946). Notes: 2007 film "Zodiac"


  • Social : End a program of study 1929 (Graduated from Berkeley)
  • Work : New Career 1933 (Started law practice)
  • Relationship : Marriage 1933 (First wife Betty Ballatine)
  • Work : Gain social status 1936 (First large news conference)
  • Relationship : Marriage 1956 (Third wife Joy Turney)
  • Social : Great Publicity 1963 (Defended Jack Ruby)
  • Relationship : Marriage 1972 (Fifth wife Lia Triff)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1976 (Autobiography)
  • Financial : Lose significant money 1985 (Lost $3.8 million in law suit)
  • Relationship : Marriage 29 March 1996 (Sixth wife, Nancy Ho)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Death by Disease 9 July 1996 (Pneumonia, stroke, pancreatic cancer, age 88)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Letter from him in hand 8/1980, from Marc Penfield


  • Traits : Body : Voice/Speech (Voice compelling)
  • Traits : Mind : I.Q. high/ Mensa level (Mensa level at least -)
  • Traits : Personality : Charismatic (Colorful, compelling, flamboyant)
  • Traits : Personality : Unique
  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Cancer (Pancreatic)
  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Pneumonia (Terminal)
  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Stroke
  • Family : Childhood : Only child
  • Family : Relationship : Mate - Age difference more than 15 yrs (Wife 42 years younger)
  • Family : Relationship : Number of Marriages (Six)
  • Family : Relationship : Stress - Domestic violence (Accused of abuse by multiple wives)
  • Family : Parenting : Kids more than 3 (Five)
  • Lifestyle : Financial : Gain - Financial success in field (Large settlements)
  • Lifestyle : Financial : Loss - Financial crisis (Huge indebtedness, malpratice suits)
  • Lifestyle : Social Life : Animals, pets (Pet greyhounds)
  • Passions : Criminal Victim : Lawsuit sued (Multiple legal battles)
  • Personal : Death : Long life more than 80 yrs (Age 88)
  • Vocation : Law : Attorney (Dramatic)
  • Vocation : Writers : Autobiographer
  • Vocation : Writers : Textbook/ Non-fiction (62 books)
  • Notable : Famous : Newsmaker
  • Notable : Book Collection : Occult/ Misc. Collection