LOS ANGELES – A prosecutor in Phil Spector's murder trial sought to show Wednesday that conclusions of a leading forensic expert were compromised because his wife is a defense attorney in the case.
Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, focusing much of his cross-examination on the relationship between Dr. Michael Baden and his wife, Linda Kenney-Baden, has suggested to jurors they can't trust his opinions because he has a conflict of interest.
Baden adamantly denied the implication and indicated he had largely formed his opinions in the case before his wife was hired to join Spector's defense team. At the time she signed on, he said, she met with Spector to make sure he would be comfortable with both Badens being involved.
Jackson also challenged Baden on a conclusion he reached only recently: That the spinal cord of the actress Spector is accused of killing was not completely severed when a bullet tore through her mouth on Feb. 3, 2003. The opinion supports defense claims that Lana Clarkson could have spewed blood onto Spector's jacket with her dying gasps.
Jackson angrily accused Baden of inventing the theory to bolster the defense case, which Baden said was "completely untrue."
"And you just came up with this epiphany on Sunday?" Jackson asked.
"Yes," Baden said.
Spector, 67, is accused of shooting Clarkson, 40, to death at his suburban Alhambra mansion 4 1/2 years ago, hours after she went home with him from her job as a House of Blues hostess.
When police arrived in response to an early morning 911 call by Spector's chauffeur, Clarkson's body was slumped in a chair in the foyer, a purse strap over one shoulder. The gun was on the floor below her.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution has attacked all the defense experts as hired guns paid high prices to deliver opinions favorable to Spector. The experts have denied this, noting that they frequently testify for prosecutors in other cases.
Baden noted Wednesday that his wife has been seriously ill for several weeks and unable to participate in the trial. She did not influence his testimony, he said.
Baden said there was an agreement from the beginning that his wife would not question him if and when he took the witness stand.
"And the reason your wife would never take you on direct (examination) is because the conflict would be so glaring," Jackson said.
"No," said Baden. "It's because someone like you would make it appear dirty and it would harm the client."
Baden, a forensic pathologist, also denied he had any influence on other experts who have testified on gunshots and blood spatter. He said others were far more expert than he in those areas.
"I'm a schlemiel compared to them," Baden said, drawing laughter in the courtroom. "We talked. But I would be presumptuous to tell them what to say."
Baden first mentioned his theory about Clarkson's spinal cord in testimony Tuesday, leading to a heated session outside the jury's presence. Prosecutors accused defense attorneys of withholding information from them, and Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler agreed, saying the defense had violated discovery laws.
On Wednesday, Jackson asked if Baden had consulted with some of the other experts whose testimony never mentioned a theory similar to his.
"I didn't speak to them and I didn't speak to my wife about it," he said. "I didn't think it was such a big deal."
"Are you aware that no one else has testified to that?" Jackson asked.
"Yes, I am aware of it," Baden said.
Baden's theory offers an explanation of how Spector could have gotten specks of blood on his jacket if he didn't shoot her, which prosecutors contend he did.
A prosecution expert has testified that Spector had to be within two or three feet for blood backspatter to land on his jacket, and the coroner who performed the autopsy told the jury that Clarkson's severed spine would have caused almost instantaneous death and she wouldn't have exhaled or expelled blood forcefully.
Spector's lawyers say Clarkson was depressed and shot herself.
Baden, like other defense pathologists, said he believed Clarkson died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
"I think she may have been playing with the weapon or looking at it or being reckless with it. I would not say suicide. I would say self-inflicted," he said. He also testified she was under the influence of alcohol and Vicodin which may have impaired her judgment and she may not have known that the gun was loaded.
Baden said that he studied the personal histories of Clarkson and Spector but that they did not determine his opinion. Gunshot residue, blood spatter and other forensic evidence were more important, he said.
"Whatever was in the mind set of Lana Clarkson or in the mindset of Mr. Spector doesn't tell me whose hand was on the gun," Baden said. "What tells me her hand was on the gun are the other things."
Baden acknowledged he was aware of Spector's history of aiming guns at women and said it did not change his opinion.