The conclusion that Lana Clarkson's death was a homicide may have been a hasty one, says the latest high-profile expert to take the stand in defense of Phil Spector.
Dr. Werner Spitz, a veteran forensics expert and former witness in the O.J. Simpson civil trial, testified Wednesday that Clarkson shot herself through the mouth on the morning of Feb. 3, 2003, after accompanying Spector back to his Alhambra home from the West Hollywood House of Blues, where she worked as a hostess.
"In my opinion, at the end of this, that most likely this is a self-inflicted wound," Spitz said. "I'd probably call this a suicide."
While medical examiner Dr. Louis Pena, who performed Clarkson's autopsy, ruled her death a homicide, Spitz said that, based on his review of the autopsy report and photographs, as well as the testimony about Clarkson's supposed depression at the time of her death, he had eliminated homicide as a possibility.
"I disagree with [Pena's] opinion," Spitz said. "I think it was a hasty opinion. I think it was an opinion without due consideration."
While her suicide was probably spur of the moment, the decision to end her life possibly fueled by her use of Vicodin and alcohol that night, the combination of physical evidence and statements about her personal life gave him "no choice in coming to a determination," Spitz said.
"I'd never met Lana Clarkson, so I don't really know her at all," he said. "So I have to base my opinion on what other people say about her—people who knew her, people who knew her well, people who knew her less well, and people like physicians who had seen her."
The scientist also echoed previous defense witnesses by saying he knew of cases where blood back spatter had traveled at least six feet—as Spector's camp is contending it did in this case, thereby placing the famed music producer too far away from Clarkson to have shot her himself—and that a bruise on Clarkson's tongue was not caused by someone shoving a gun inside her mouth.
The bruising was caused by gas pressure when the gun was fired, Spitz, who previously served as chief medical examiner for Wayne County, Michigan (which includes Detroit), said.
"As far as cause of death, there is no problem at all. The shot was from inside the mouth," Spitz said. But as for the bruising, "you have too much symmetry. The bruises have an explanation."
Prosecutors maintain that Spector was standing about two feet away from Clarkson when the gun went off, spraying the Wall of Sound creator's jacket with the actress' blood.
Spitz also suggested that Clarkson could have taken more than two breaths after she died, a not uncommon occurrence with people who are brain dead, which could explain tiny blood stains found on Spector's jacket.
The prosecution has argued that death was instantaneous because Clarkson's spinal cord was immediately severed on impact.
On cross-examination, Spitz was asked what he was charging Spector in exchange for his consultancy.
"I sent them a bill for $45,000," but he normally charges $5,000 per day, Spitz told Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson.
"Ultimately, you're being paid by Mr. Spector?" Jackson asked.
"Yes, that's true," Spitz said.
Using hypotheticals, Jackson asked whether it was reasonable to assume Spector was the shooter if he had been standing within two feet of Clarkson when she died.
Spitz agreed, but said that the evidence in this case doesn't support Spector standing that close to her or pulling the trigger.
A series of criminalists testifying for the prosecution have stated that they could not conclude with certainty who fired the shot that killed Clarkson.
Testimony is expected to resume Thursday at 9 a.m.