The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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CA vs. Spector – The Forensic Evidence Begins

Posted by thedarwinexception on May 29, 2007

Well,. despite my not being able to get Court TV on my own television – there is more than one way to skin a cat, by God, and I am watching the trial live via KTLA on the internet.

And actually, the Dish going out may be a blessing in disguise, because I have discovered over the days testimony that while Court TV, with it’s “respect for the family” altruistic viewpoint, won’t show the bloody autopsy photos and crime scene photos, KTLA has no such compunctions and they show *everything*. When Dr. Pena, the Forensic Pathologist and Deputy ME who examined Lana’s body at the crime scene and is the Prosecution’s first witness after the holiday break, referred to the autopsy photos, I expected the normal “Court TV” way of doing things, stay on the witness, don’t show the pictures. Much to my surprise, KTLA panned right to the screen and showed everything.

Dr. Pena starts out by describing how he was called to the actual crime scene, an unusual circumstance in his job. Generally he doesn’t actually see the victims at the scene of the crime – they are generally brought to him,  he doesn’t go to them.

He describes the wounds as he found them – with full color pictures of Lana stretched out on the autopsy table. He describes several significant bruises on her hands and forearms,. and shows a photo of a large bruise on her right wrist. Pena also describes a bruise to the back left side of her tongue, which he believes occurred before death. Pena explains that the bullet track wound was in the center, going from front to back and split the tongue down the center. The bruise he is describing on the tongue was not near the bullet injury. Pena testifies that this bruise could have occurred as the result of the barrel of the gun being forced into Clarkson’s mouth. He acknowledges it is the first time he is talking about the bruise, which was not mentioned earlier in the case. Pena said he was asked by prosecutors to go back and examine it and he also said he discussed the matter with his colleagues before reaching a conclusion. “The bruise is very unique and is consistent with blunt force trauma. Something struck the tongue,” Pena said.Pena gave a powerful description of the moment that the actress died. He said the gun was in her mouth and the recoil from the shot shattered her top front teeth, blowing them out of her mouth. He also showed a photo of her face and mouth and pointed out that while the top teeth were missing, the bottom teeth were still intact. Pena explains the teeth chipping and breaking as being attributable to the gun’s recoil once fired – that this is what would have forced the teeth to break off.Jackson asked Pena to describe the incapacitation that followed the shot.Pena said that the shot went through her head, severed her spine and death would have been almost instantaneous.

“She’s gonna lose consciousness,” he said. “She won’t be able to move her arms. All the arm movement from shoulders including out to the fingers, everything’s just gonna go. Wherever she’s at she’s going down, bottom line. Respiration will cease. Heart rate may still go a little bit but not very long, but it could go. The blood pressure will drop pretty rapidly after that, after the shot. All brain functions will cease. She’ll not talk. She’ll not scream. She won’t cry.”

Pena also testified that Clarkson would not have exhaled or coughed.

“So she could not expel blood forcefully out of her mouth after that shot was fired?” Jackson asked.

“That’s correct,” Pena said.

Pena also testified that there were bruises on Clarkson’s right arm and wrist and described two of the bruises as “significant.”

Pena also testified concerning the trajectory of the bullet and the path was described as going slightly upward from the base of the skull, but Pena said that he could not determine what position her head was in at the time the shot was fired.

Pena then testifies about the tox screen done on Clarkson’s blood. He found therapeutic levels of Aleve and Vicodin in her system, possibly taken painkillers for her still healing double wrist fractures.

Alan Jackson then asks Pena some basic questions about his final report – and asks what he believes the manner of death was. Pena responds that this was, in his opinion, a homicide. He testifies that he has performed over 3,300 autopsies, and he has never heard of anyone going to a stranger’s house, looking for a gun and then shooting themselves. He says that yes, people do commit suicide outside of their homes, such as “suicide by cop”, or family disputes where someone will kill a family member or friend and then commit suicide, but that these are exceptions and will usually include family or friends.

He says that he looked at the scene of the crime,. and that the only drawer open was to the left of the chair – the drawer that held the gun. He questions how Lana would know that that one drawer held a gun if she was searching for one, and that it made more sense that the owner of the gun had removed it.

He also observed that her purse was on her shoulder, hanging off the right side of the chair. He said that this was troubling and added to his official opinion of homicide. He said that the way the gun would have been held, had she been the one holding it,. and the recoil of the gun,. would have knocked the purse from her shoulder.

Pena testified that he found no evidence that Lana was suicidal. He described her as a hopeful person who had none of the classic symptoms of someone planning to take their own life – she had not done any of the classic “planning” most suicides exhibit, she had plans for the following week with friends and family, she had a job and was going out,. not depressed and introverted the way most suicidal candidates seem to be. Pena also points out that Lana had available to her Vicodin and other painkillers prescribed by her doctor – all she had to do was horde these drugs and then take them all at one time if she wished to commit suicide, and that pills were a much more common method of suicide in women than putting a gun in one’s mouth.

Dr. Pena then starts describing some of the other physical evidence he examined. The white pants Phil Spector was wearing that night had a huge blood stain in the front right pocket. Dr. Pena said that he could only attribute his stain to either Spector putting his bloody hand in that pocket or the gun in that pocket after it had been fired. He said that the gun had been “wiped” and used the analogy of the ice cream cone to explain why he believes this. If you go to Baskin Robbins and get an ice cream cone, and it melts down your hand, the ice cream gets into the crevices of your fingers. The same with the blood on a gun – the “blowback” or “spatter” will blow back and get into the crevices of the gun. The gun in this case had no blood in the crevices, leading Pena to believe that it had been wiped clean after the shooting.

And thus concludes the prosecutions questioning.  It is estimated that the defense will be cross examining this witness for the next two days. But first, they have a quick motion hearing in front of the judge and outside the presence of the jury. The defense says that the prosecution has “opened the door” with the questioning of Dr. Pena concerning Lana’s psychological state and her state of mind, and that with this line of questioning the defense should now be free to ask Dr. Pena about Clarkson’s friends statements that Clarkson was “depressed” and if these statements would change his opinion that she was not suicidal. The judge rules that although the prosecution has “opened the door” the door is not “off it’s hinges” and that the defense may pose these questions to Dr. Pena in a hypothetical sense, since they are not going to be allowed to introduce this evidence through Dr. Pena without the actual witness being put on the stand to be cross examined by the state. They may pose to Dr. Pena such questions as “If this were true, would it then change your opinion?”

And we now have two days of cross and hypothetical scenarios to look forward to.


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