LOS ANGELES – With her dying gasp after being shot through the mouth, actress Lana Clarkson may have breathed out blood that spattered on Phil Spector's jacket, a forensic pathologist testified Thursday in the music producer's murder trial.
But Dr. Werner Spitz said that would not change his opinion that Clarkson pulled the trigger. Asked by the prosecutor how far a final gasp of blood might travel, Spitz said, "Just imagine yourself coughing, terminally expelling the last gasp. How far would that go? Two feet, three feet."
But he objected to the prosecutor referring to "all the spray" landing on Spector's jacket.
"When you say all, it sounds like you have a bucket full of stuff," Spitz said. "He has 18 spots and some are where he wiped something."
The cross-examination of Spitz by Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson was the most caustic and lengthy of any confrontation with an expert so far in the trial, providing a dramatic courtroom contest between a white-haired expert with more than 50 years experience and a youthful-looking prosecutor.
Jackson returned several times to the theme that Spitz was being paid $5,000 a day by the defense and might not be giving an unbiased assessment of the evidence.
Noting how long the questioning was lasting, Jackson said at one point, "Well, this is another $5,000 for you."
"Mr. Jackson," the witness retorted, "I've got plenty of money. The only thing I don't have is time."
"Well said," responded the prosecutor.
But minutes later he raised the fee question again.
"I'm so grateful to you for being concerned with my money, but at this time of my life I don't care," Spitz said.
Spector, the 67-year-old music producer who made hits decades ago with his "wall of sound" recording technique, is accused of murdering Clarkson, 40, on Feb. 3, 2003, after she went home with him from her job as a nightclub hostess. She was best known for her 1985 role in the cult film "Barbarian Queen."
The defense contends a depressed Clarkson killed herself and Spector was too far away to have pulled the trigger of the gun that went off in her mouth.
Jackson, giving jurors what might be a preview of his final argument in the case, repeatedly enumerated facts that could tie Spector to the killing, among them that Clarkson was in Spector's home, that she was unfamiliar with the house, that she was shot with a gun belonging to Spector, and that she had her purse on her shoulder as if she was about to leave.
Spitz said he was aware of all those facts and they didn't change his opinion. Nor was he swayed by a picture of one of Clarkson's fingernails with a piece of acrylic coating chipped off.
Asked if that could indicate that Clarkson struggled with an assailant, Spitz said, "Nails can break in a struggle. In this case, it didn't break in a struggle."
Instead, he said it most likely broke from her firing the gun.
"And the other explanation is it broke in a struggle?" said Jackson.
"I'm not going to say it's impossible," said Spitz.
Jackson also returned to a central argument of the prosecution case: that Spector had threatened women with guns in the 1990s in similar circumstances. As Jackson recited the details of each incident, Spitz said he was aware of them and considered them along with all the other evidence. He said that after Jackson raised these points on Wednesday, he re-evaluated his findings.
"I came to the conclusion that my opinion as rendered was correct," he said. "... I would not say she committed suicide. I would say she shot herself."
On Wednesday, Spitz had said that Clarkson probably shot herself in an impulsive act while she was under the influence of liquor and drugs and without consideration of the consequences. "In my opinion," he said, "it is most likely a suicide."
Before he concluded his examination of Spitz, Jackson reminded jurors of a witness' claim that in the 1990s, Spector made a profanity laced rant about how all women deserved a bullet in the head.
"Did you consider that?" Jackson asked.
"I took note of it," Spitz said. "But I found very little relevance to events ten years later."
"Dr. Spitz, Lana Clarkson died of a bullet in her head didn't she?' Jackson asked.
"Yes," Spitz said.