LOS ANGELES – A forensic pathologist testifying for the defense said Wednesday that the actress Phil Spector is accused of killing shot herself, and that a medical examiner was "hasty" in calling her death a homicide.
Dr. Werner Spitz testified that Lana Clarkson died of a self-inflicted wound to the mouth. Such wounds can be accidental or suicidal, he said, but in this case, he said: "In my opinion, it is most likely a suicide."
Spitz, who presented a lengthy resume that included longtime service as chief medical examiner for Wayne County, Mich., said he looked at autopsy records and indicated he surveyed accounts of Clarkson's life.
Of the homicide conclusion by the Los Angeles County deputy medical examiner, he said: "I disagree with his opinion. I think it was a hasty opinion. I think it was an opinion without due consideration."
Clarkson, 40, died of a gunshot fired inside her mouth on Feb. 3, 2003. Her body was in a chair in the foyer of Spector's home.
"Mr. Spector could not have had his finger on that trigger because he wasn't close enough," Spitz said.
Defense witnesses, including Spitz, have said that blood spatter would place Spector as far as six feet away from Clarkson. Prosecution witnesses place the distance at two to three feet.
"If I gave you a hypothetical that he was standing within two feet, would you have to reconsider your opinion?" asked prosecutor Alan Jackson.
Spitz finally conceded, "If Mr. Spector can be shown in such proximity to Ms. Clarkson I would have to reconsider my opinion."
Best known for her role in the 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen," Clarkson had gone home with the record producer that morning after meeting him at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, where she worked as a hostess. Spector's defense is seeking to show Clarkson shot herself out of despair over her career and personal life.
Spitz said he concluded that Clarkson shot herself after examining physical evidence, including photos that he looked at over and over, and after considering what Clarkson's friends and acquaintances said about her.
"I'd never met Lana Clarkson, so I don't really know her at all. 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."
Jackson accused Spitz of ignoring a history of threats against women by a gun-wielding Spector, which is a central theme of the prosecution case.
Clarkson was shot with Spector's gun and his bullet, was seated in his foyer with her purse on her arm a few feet from the door and there was blood on Spector's jacket, Jackson said.
"I agree with all of them," said Spitz. "But without a video camera, you have no idea what transpired and neither do I." He said he was guided by scientific evidence that pointed to suicide.
"You're getting paid a lot for that opinion, aren't you?" snapped Jackson.
Spitz said he was paid to study the case, not for the opinion. He said his fee was $5,000 a day and so far has billed $45,000.
Spector, 67, was a top producer of hit records decades ago and was famous for his "wall of sound" recording technique.