Phil Spector’s defense called back one of its most notable scientific witnesses Thursday to testify that actress Lana Clarkson could have breathed blood onto the music producer’s jacket after a bullet went through her spine.
Dr. Werner Spitz, who testified in Spector’s murder trial last month, contradicted a prosecution expert’s testimony that Clarkson could not have exhaled any breaths after the gun went off in her mouth.
Prosecutors claim Spector’s stained jacket shows that he was standing close to Clarkson when he shot her on Feb. 3, 2003, a few hours after she went home with him from her job as a nightclub hostess.
The defense maintains Clarkson, 40, shot herself and that Spector, 67, was perhaps four feet away when he was sprayed with blood from her last gasps.
“This is an automatic manifestation,” Spitz said of post mortem breathing. “It’s difficult to stop life. For a period of time there will be breathing.”
Clarkson’s body was found slumped in a chair in Spector’s mansion.
Earlier in the trial, defense witness Dr. Michael Baden shook the trial with a new theory that Clarkson inhaled and exhaled blood in the moments after she was shot because her spine was not completely severed by the bullet and only later was fully torn when the body was moved. Baden based his conclusion on the large amount of blood in her lungs during the autopsy and said it could have gotten there only by inhalation.
Prosecution expert Dr. John Andrews rebutted Baden’s opinion, testifying the large amount of blood in Clarkson’s lungs could have gotten there by gravity while her body was seated upright for several hours or during the transport of her body to the morgue.
Spitz, the former chief medical examiner for Wayne County, Mich., and author of a textbook on crime scene investigations, said that was impossible and there is no scientific literature to support Andrews’ conclusions.
“Unless there was breathing in of blood, there was never blood in the lungs,” said Spitz. “... I think it came in there by inhalation of the blood.”
However, he said that it was irrelevant whether the spinal cord was fully or partially transected because exhalation could have occurred either way.
“It doesn’t really matter,” he said, “because exhalation is passive.”
Defense attorney Linda Kenney-Baden had Spitz remind jurors of his 54-year-career and his work on 55,000 to 60,000 autopsies. Andrews, a Los Angeles County deputy medical examiner and neuropathologist with a long history as a clinician, researcher and professor, said he has been certified as a forensic pathologist since 1999 and witnessed about 400 autopsies.
With the defense nearing the end of its rebuttal case, the judge has said he expects testimony to end Monday. Final arguments are set for Sept. 5.