Spector D.A. Hot Under Witness' Collar

Prosecutor accuses forensics expert of selling out for the defense; Dr. Werner Spitz maintains opinion that Lana Clarkson shot herself, although he stops short of calling it suicide

By Natalie Finn Jul 27, 2007 3:10 AMTags

Things got heated in this Los Angeles courtroom Thursday, and it wasn't because the AC was on the fritz.

Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson made waves with defense expert Dr. Werner Spitz, accusing the former medical examiner of selling his professional opinion about what really happened to Lana Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003, in exchange for a nice chunk of change.

Spitz, who said Wednesday that Clarkson's death was not a homicide, defiantly declared today that the fee Spector was paying him—$5,000 a day—had not affected his testimony.

Jackson resumed his cross-examination with questions about the blood spatter found on Spector's jacket. The prosecution has argued that Spector was standing about two feet away from Clarkson, close enough to shoot her through the mouth, while the defense is trying to prove that Spector was at least six feet away and couldn't have pulled the trigger.

A series of witnesses for the prosecution testified that they couldn't say for sure who actually fired the gun.

Questioned as to why Clarkson's blood ended up on a remote spot on the left side of Spector's sleeve but nowhere else beyond the hem of the actress' black slip dress, Spitz testified that blood can shoot out unpredictably, "like a fireman's hose," from wounds such as the one that Clarkson died from.

Spitz also said yesterday that Clarkson could have taken a few quick breaths after she was shot, which would account for the spray on Spector's jacket.

Jackson, whose witnesses have testified that death was instantaneous, disagreed with the theory.

"Just imagine yourself coughing, terminally expelling the last gasp," Spitz said. "How far would that go? Two feet, three feet."

He also objected to Jackson's use of the words "all the spray," saying the prosecutor was implying that there was "a bucketful of stuff" on Spector's clothes.

"He has 18 spots and some are where he wiped something," Spitz said.

Disputing criminalist Lynne Herold's testimony that Clarkson, whose body was found slumped in a chair in Spector's foyer, was shot with her legs stretched out in front of her, Spitz said that the actress probably had her legs tucked underneath her.

"This is a peaceful position she's in," he said, referring to a photograph depicting Clarkson's dead body in the chair.

"Well, she's dead, doctor," went Jackson's deadpan reply.

Then, taking a swipe at the paycheck Spitz was collecting for his work on the trial, Jackson commented on the lengthiness of his cross-examination and said, "Well, this is another $5,000 for you."

"Mr. Jackson," Spitz snapped. "I've got plenty of money. The only thing I don't have is time." Spitz's quip was a big hit with the jury, which laughed at the septuagenarian scientist's remark.

"Well said," Jackson replied, before heading down the same path once again.

"The 45 to 50 thousand dollars wouldn't sway your opinion," Jackson said. The prosecutor had also suggested that defense expert Vincent DiMaio was suiting his testimony to fit the defense's needs in return for a hefty payday.

"I'm so grateful to you for being concerned with my income, but at this time of my life I don't care," Spitz said.

In the end, Spitz held fast to his conclusion that Clarkson committed suicide, an opinion he said he based on physical evidence, the autopsy report and the testimony he has heard about Clarkson's mental state. A series of witnesses, self-proclaimed close friends of hers, have testified that she was very depressed over the state of her career and finances in the weeks leading up to her death.

"When you work a puzzle, you don't know what is the picture," Spitz said.

"That piece of the puzzle could fit something else," Jackson challenged, citing Clarkson's broken fingernail. Spitz said that the nail didn't necessarily break off during some sort of struggle.

"To comply with that theory you would have a lot of holes in that puzzle," Spitz countered. "It doesn't fit in this case."

Spitz did, however, slightly alter his phrasing from yesterday, when he said that Clarkson's death was "most likely" suicide. 

"I would say she shot herself," is what he said today. Spitz explained that he took into consideration what Jackson said in court Wednesday about the four women who testified that Spector threatened them with guns.

He did not take into account, though, the alleged statement that Spector made to his driver a few minutes after Clarkson's death.

Adriano De Souza testified in May that he was asleep in Spector's Mercedes outside when he was awakened by a loud popping noise. Moments later, he said, Spector came out the back door of his house, holding a bloody gun, and said, "I think I killed somebody."

"Statements are subject to variations," Spitz said, adding that Spector may have said that—if he did say it—because he felt guilty for not preventing Clarkson from pulling the trigger.

After Spitz was excused, Alhambra Police Officer Enrique Juarez testified that Spector seemed intoxicated both during his arrest and several hours later, when he asked Juarez to go to his home to retrieve his jacket.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.