Lana Clarkson was an aging, out-of-work actress fighting depression and health problems when she died in Phil Spector’s mansion, a forensic expert testified Wednesday in the music producer’s murder trial.
Dr. Vincent DiMaio, testifying for Spector’s defense, said he concluded that Clarkson pulled the trigger on the gun that killed her in 2003. He said he studied Clarkson’s e-mail correspondence, date book, medical records and scientific evidence.
“She had financial problems. She was afraid of being evicted. In one of the e-mails she said she had no job skills,” said DiMaio. “She was an actress, was 40 years of age. I’m sorry, that’s sex discrimination, but that’s the way it is.”
Clarkson was shot to death on Feb. 3, 2003, at Spector’s hilltop Alhambra mansion. Prosecutors claim Spector shot her; the defense says she committed suicide.
DiMaio, a noted forensic pathologist, said the tall, blonde cult movie star from 1985’s “Barbarian Queen” had fallen on hard times. She had broken both wrists in an accident the year before she died. She had been plagued with headaches and was so depressed that she spoke of having trashed her house, he said.
DiMaio said Clarkson had been taking the painkiller Vicodin, which was in her system when she died. She had addiction problems that led her to consult a Screen Actors Guild Web site for counseling on drug and alcohol problems, he said.
In a note to one of her doctors, DiMaio said, she declared that “she was at the end of her rope and could not function.”
DiMaio noted that in her day planner for Aug. 21, 2002, Clarkson wrote: “First sober day.”
She had taken a hostess job at the House of Blues when Spector, now 67, met her and invited her to come home with him for a drink after the club closed. A few hours later, she was dead from a single bullet fired into her mouth. Her body was found in a chair in a foyer, one hand resting on her purse and a bloody revolver at her feet.
Earlier witness called Clarkson ‘hopeful’
Prosecutors spent eight weeks in the trial focusing on Spector, a legendary record producer who witnesses have alleged repeatedly threatened women with guns. The defense changed the focus to Clarkson.
A deputy medical examiner who previously testified concluded that Clarkson’s killing was a homicide and interpreted her writings to show that she was “a hopeful person” and with plans for the future.
DiMaio disagreed. He said many people live with or conquer depression but, “Most people who commit suicide are depressed.”
Numerous law enforcement officers and forensic scientists called by prosecutors were unable to say conclusively that Spector fired the gun.
DiMaio said he was sure Spector did not fire it and that Clarkson did. He held his hands in front of his mouth and showed how she would have balanced the gun. He cited reports that she was familiar with guns and had been to a gun club.
He also offered a sometimes stomach-turning display of how Clarkson died, with a three-dimensional model of her tongue, a photograph of the tongue after it was removed from her body and a Plexiglas model of her head.
Clarkson’s mother and sister have sat through most of the trial testimony, averting their eyes from bloody photographs shown by the prosecution. But they left during DiMaio’s display.
Defense attorney Christopher Plourd also showed jurors a computer model of the gunshot with a mist of blood and gunshot residue flying into the air.
Prosecutor Alan Jackson objected to the display, calling it “a cartoon.” But Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler permitted it, saying it was a video aid for jurors.