The Darwin Exception

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

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CA vs. Spector – 400 Hours of Blogging Makes me an Expert

Posted by thedarwinexception on July 23, 2007

Back to testimony today, with a few side issues thrown in over the weekend.

First off, Bruce Cutler is back in the courtroom today, after being gone for the entire defense case and quite a bit of the latter portion of the prosecution’s case. He is off filming his new syndicated TV show called “Jury Duty”, in which he portrays Judge Bruce Cutler, even though he’s not a judge. Which is ok, since they have “celebrities” like Bruce Jenner, who is not really a celebrity, playing jurors.  Cutler is expected to be here for the week, and then he’ll be off again filming until August 17th. The producer of the TV show has said that if the closing statements in the Spector trial come before the 17th, they’ll shut down production for a couple of days to allow Cutler to come back to court and give his portion of the closing arguments, but otherwise Cutler will be off filming. Apparently Spector is OK with his lead attorney being gone for most of the trial, and Cutler has said that he is keeping up with the proceedings via Court TV and updates from Spector himself. I hope that Spector’s meds have worn off by the time he updates his lead attorney, because he doesn’t look so fucking alert in court that I’d trust getting my updates from him.

Also over the weekend Michael Bay, the producer who Punkin Pie testified dissed Lana Clarkson enough to drive the poor girl to suicide, updated his personal website. Here is his message:

What a friggin circus in that Phil Spector murder trial. Some whack job witness who say’s she is a friend of the poor murdered girl Lana Clarkson say’s she ended it (meaning suicide) because I did not recognize Lana at a party. Can you believe this dumb story? First of all Phil Spector looks like a creepy murderer. No girl would sit in a foyer of a house with a purse on her shoulder, and borrow some guys gun, and say I’m gonna end it here, oh and I’m gonna blow my teeth out and wreck my face while I’m doing it. According to national suicide experts, people – especially women, never hurt their face in the process of suicide.

So this is the Spector creep’s only alibi – she committed suicide – come on.

I knew Lana. She worked with me on two commercials. I liked her energy – she had a great personality. I would never forget her face. It would be a big event in someone’s life If you saw a woman you knew at a party on Saturday night and she was dead two days later, don’t you think? I never saw Lana at this party. This Punkin, witness lady is a liar! According to reports, Punkin has a book deal about being Lana’s friend. She wants to make money off of her so called ‘friend’. What a disgusting piece of shit that Pumkin lady is!!!

Michael Bay

Not that it matters, but I believe him. The whole thing sounded fishy, anyway, when Pie was testifying about it. And I think she’s a disgusting piece of shit, too. And since Bay thinks so, maybe I will go and see “Transformers”.

Back in the courtroom, Anselmo the dentist is back on the stand, explaining that the front two central incisors (your two front teeth) are numbers 8 & 9 in dentist talk. Your lateral incisors, more commonly referred to as “those ones next to
your front teeth”, are 7 & 10. Lana’s number 10 lateral incisor was covered in a veneer, which was blown off during the shooting, leaving the natural tooth intact. Her number 8 & 9 teeth (her two front teeth), were covered in a porcelain jacketed crown, and Anselmo describes the method of installing a crown, which involves filing down the natural tooth to a post, which is then covered by the crown, only I didn’t hear a lot of this, because I had my hands over my ears going “la lalalalallalalala I can’t hear you”, since this kind of testimony gives me cold chills, for some reason. I can eat Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Peanut Butter Bars  to the dismemberment testimony regarding Melanie McGuire’s husband, and how she chopped him into pieces and stuffed him in a suitcase, but testimony about filing down teeth? Now that’s just going too far.

Of course, his testimony ends without an “AHA!” moment, which the defense really, really needs at this point, and when Alan Jackson gets up to cross, he says “Briefly, Dr. Anselmo…” because really, what’s he going to cross him on? That the teeth were numbered incorrectly? The guy didn’t say anything other than “Her teeth were capped or veneered, some stuff blew off….” which really isn’t any kind of Perry Mason moment stuff.

Jackson gets Anselmo to agree that once you have crowns put on, they are the hardest material in the body, harder even than bone or natural dentin. He also gets Anselmo to agree that porcelain can be shattered more easily than natural dentin and that natural tooth material would be more pulverized than shattered. He then asks about the positioning of the gun with regards to the position of the teeth and the muzzle flip involved. He gets Anselmo to agree that the muzzle flip of the gun, when it was in the mouth, beyond the crowns, would hit the crowns first and then the natural dentin of the teeth once the crowns were gone, which is only a matter of common sense. There was natural tooth material on the sight of the gun, but no porcelain or veneer material. It would make sense, then, that the sight of the gun had hit the natural material.

On redirect the doctor is asked if he knows what muzzle flip is, and he confesses that he doesn’t. The defense then tries to get the witness back on their side by asking if the blast itself could have blown the teeth off, rather than the sight of the gun hitting them as it recoiled. Since this, of course, is their theory. The Doctor can’t answer, because he admits he knows nothing about muzzle pressure, blast forces and what exactly would happen in an intra oral wound. Jackson takes advantage of the witness not being able to be rehabbed by the defense, and asks one final question of the witness: “The other 30 teeth in the mouth showed no trauma from either muzzle pressure nor blast effect, correct?” “Correct” answers the doctor.

And then we have another witness, Stuart James, a consulting forensic scientist with a specialty in blood spatter analysis, who you know just by looking at is going to be really fucking boring. And he doesn’t disappoint.

Linda Kenney Baden conducts the direct examination, and seems to take forever going through his CV, which is probably an attempt to divert the jury’s attention away from the fact that this is not PhD James, or Master’s Degree James, or Dr. James, it’s simply Stuart James, who took some 40 to 50 hour courses in blood spatter analysis to total 400 hours since the 70’s. I’ve spent more time than that watching Law & Order, and there’s a lot of blood on that show, so I think I shall now call myself an expert as well. At least an expert on the yumminess that is Sam Waterston.

Baden gets right into discrediting the prosecution’s witness Lynne Herold, who admitted taking a class from James in 2006 on blood spatter analysis. Baden asks James if he teaches blood spatter as it relates to intra oral wounds in these classes that he teaches and he says no, that 95% of the textbooks and source materials he has reviewed don’t even mention intra oral wounds, and that there’s not much info out there concerning them. Which would make one think that he can now step down, since most likely he doesn’t know anything about them either, but he doesn’t.

He offers that in his advanced blood spatter analysis course, which  Herold attended (and by the way, she *is* a doctor), 80% of the lab work is devoted to stringing and the trigonometric method of analyzing bloodletting events, examination and interpretation of bloodstained clothing, and case reviews based on photos and autopsy reports.

Baden then gets into his analysis and theories concerning the distance that blood spatter can travel, and James discusses a lab method he uses wherein he takes this machine with a chute and a propeller on it and he pours blood into the chute with a pipette and allows it to spatter by the rotating propeller and then measures and analyzes the resultant stains. And I really think he called the device an “infernal machine”, which I thought was the “horseless carriage”, but, whatever, my ears perk up – now *this* sounds cool! If they bring this machine in here and start pouring blood into it, I might even wake up out of the fucking coma this evidence has put me into. But it was just a tease, and all we get to see is the photos of the cardboard the blood was spattered onto using the infernal machine. And I realize that as much as I complain about never having been called for jury duty, I probably would not make a good juror, because at this point, I’m quite, quite sure I would have stood right up in the jury box and said “Excuse me, Judge Fidler? I’m going to need to see this machine in action, thank you very much. Anything to break up this boring ass testimony, I’m in a fucking coma over here.”

So we see a bunch of boring pictures from some boring ass book showing that spots of blood with momentum can be found at 1 foot and 6 feet away from the source. He testifies that there is nothing to suggest that back spatter can only go the 3 feet testified to by the *DR* Lynne Herold. He says he checked all of his sources and he can’t find a cite for such an opinion.

James then takes on Luminol and the proper way to test and the improper use of Luminol to check for spatter. James opines that it’s never a good idea to use Luminol to check for spatter because you can end up with false positives or false negatives for blood. He explains that Luminol is an aqueous substance and it can dilute small droplets of blood to the point that it will no longer detect them. He also criticizes the fact that there were people walking on the carpet before the body was removed and he says that this, too, may have diluted the blood and pulverized the droplets to the point where they could no longer be detected. He suggests that a better investigative tool would have been for law enforcement to cut out the affected portions of carpet , bring those back to the laboratory and do microscopic testing on them. Or install platforms, as they do in the UK.

James then explains satellite spatter, which is the result of a drop of blood hitting a surface and breaking into other, smaller droplets. He says that satellite spatter can be seen on the back of the chair where Lana was sitting, as well as on the strap of her purse.

Then he gets into expirated spatter, which comes as a result of the victim breathing out aspirated blood. He testifies that he has often, in his own experiments, used his own blood in his mouth to cough out blood and measure the resulting spatter patterns. Which, again, is just a tease, since Kenney Baden doesn’t hand him a knife and ask him to slice his wrist and suck out some blood to demonstrate. I’m telling you, this guy is no Henry Lee. At least Lee isn’t afraid to spit ketchup at a whiteboard. I would have loved for James to start spitting blood at Roger Rosen to demonstrate. I would have woken up for that I’m quite sure. Hell, maybe Phil would have even woken up for that.

And I do not know why this testimony is deemed important, anyway, since it does not fit in with the defense theory at all, and the prosecution hasn’t even hinted that any “agonal breaths” expelled expirated blood anywhere.

James then is questioned about the directionality of the blood and whether or not it can be used to determine the position of Lana’s head when she was shot. He says that the directionality itself is in question, because the slip dress was pulled up over Lana’s thighs. He says that this caused a “rippling” effect in the fabric, and that when laid flat, the blood drops were distorted. He does not agree with some of the conclusions that DR Herold came to with regards to directionality on some of the drops because of this “rippling”. 

Although he does conclude that her head was “somewhere above her shoulders”. And really, isn’t that what you would want to pay this guy to conclude? Right on top of the evidence, this guy is.

The last little demonstration Linda Kenney Baden leaves us with before she wraps up her direct examination is to get Stuart James to opine that perhaps the “spatter” on the back of the left arm of Spector’s jacket was “agonal blood”, and that in order to get this “agonal blood” on the back of the arm of the jacket, Spector would have had his arm across his chest and over his other arm. He lifts arm in order to demonstrate this, and he looks ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the mimicking of the move Baden makes, wherein she places her arm over her eyes like she’s one third of the “speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil” monkeys.

Why they would even bring this theory up is beyond me…what are they proposing, that Spector was standing by the stairs when Lana shot herself, and then he ran towards her, with his hands over his eyes in time for her to breath one last agonal breath on the sleeve of his jacket? Quite a feat, since we’ve heard over and over that Lana died instantly. This theory is entirely beyond the realm of believability.

Alan Jackson then crosses the witness. He begins by asking the witness if it is true that essentially every case is different and that each “bloodletting event”, although experimented with by scientists and investigators trying to recreate certain patterns, all that these investigators and scientists can really expect is a random distribution.

James agrees that essentially this is true, that although blood soaked sponges and shooting animals can allow some conclusions to be made, each crime scene is still a random event with no ability to predict what you will find, and that it is not appropriate to go into a crime scene saying “what can I expect to find here”, rather you have to just accept the findings as they are.

Jackson then gets into James’ problem with the terminology used, and asks James if this hindered his investigation at all in this case. The fact that one person uses the word “misting” when James thinks it is not appropriate shouldn’t be a cause for concern as it is all just terminology and semantics. James points out that this non standardized approach is why his group is working to standardize the nomenclature. But he does agree that it did not hinder his investigation, and that the documentation was sufficient.

Jackson then asks about the “infernal machine” and the resulting pictures of blood patterns and asks James if these pictures were meant to recreate gunshot back spatters at all, and James says no, they weren’t, they were just used as tools to teach students that bigger drops travel farther. He agrees with Jackson that there is a wide variation in the amount of distance droplets can travel, and that in some cases there is no back spatter at all, that it depends on what is in the location of the arc of the blood spray, as some things can impede the blood’s travel – like clothing, a hat, long thick hair, etc.

Jackson then questions the witness extensively on the arm of the chair, taking issue with James’ initial testimony on direct that the blood pattern found there was consistent with satellite splatter. Jackson contends that this is blood flowing from Clarkson’s head or mouth area and that it is “blood flow”. James’ eventually agrees that this could be the case. He also eventually agrees that since the blood was found primarily on the right side of the chair, on the right side of the body, on the right side of the face, on the right side of the purse, on the right side of the slip dress, that maybe her head was tipped to the right when she was shot.

Jackson then asks about the spatter on the white ladies dinner jacket, and how it relates to the fact that no blood was found at all – either on the body of the victim, the clothes of the victim or the rug underneath the victim anywhere below the victim’s hem line of the dress. She was found with her legs extended and being a fairly tall person, there was a fairly large “zone” around her that
contained the blood spatter “area’. And no blood was found outside this area.  Jackson got the witness to agree that *IF* the body was found in the same position that she was shot in, that how far the blood could have or would have travailed was a non issue, since no blood was outside this “zone”. Jackson then asked the witness, “OK, assuming that the victim was not moved after the event, and assuming that the zone of blood spatter is confined to the area above the victim’s knee area and above the hemline of her dress, which is the only place we did find blood, then where did the sleeve of the white jacket have to be in order to have blood spatter on it?”

The witness agreed that it had to be within 1 to 1.5 feet of the victim’s face.

Linda Kenny Baden’s re-direct was short and sweet: “Was  there any void area on this slip showing that an arm intercepted or disturbed the blood spatter?” The witness said there was not.

Re-Cross had Jackson following up with “Yes, but with this cone of spatter we have heard so much about, would you expect to find blood on the sleeve, or would you expect the blood to travel above and below the sleeve?”

The witness agreed that blood will follow the path of least resistance.

Next up is the final persecution witness. Remember they haven’t rested their case in chief as of yet.

And it’s a familiar face, since we’ve seen him twice already. It’s Richard Tomlin – again.

Tomlin testifies about receiving evidence and keeping it nice and sorted and keeping track of it, and numbering it and entering it into his database, and he tells the jury that this is so that when discovery comes about, that he can retrieve everything. He is then asked by Mr. Dixon if he ever received an object from the defense that looked like a white, irregular shaped flat white thing. No, he didn’t. He did receive three things form the defense through Dr. Lynne Herold – a bindle full of fibers, gun shavings on a post it note (which had to be from Henry Lee), and a piece of carpet from inside the house.

On cross examination Christopher Plourd makes much of the fact that it was the *defense* that pulled up the carpet and cut a piece out, not the prosecution. Tomlin tells Plourd that in the normal course of business the Sheriff’s department tries not to wreck people’s homes and that if samples can be collected without cutting up carpet, they’ll do that first. Plourd also mentions that the prosecution had control of the scene for 30 hours before the defense got there, and that they had a chance to collect everything they considered of evidentiary value, right? Which Tomlin agreed with.

After this witness is excused – subject to recall (again) – the people finally rest their case in chief. The judge dismisses the jury for the day and the attorneys and judge discuss going over the obligatory 1108 Motion to Dismiss for lack of a Case or Evidence in the morning, as well as marking all the people’s exhibits then, as well. There would be no court tomorrow morning, anyway, since a juror has a previous engagement. The Prosecution says that in aniticpation of the obligatory 1108 motion, they have already drafted a response and can submit that at the end of the day.

So, 11:00 tomorrow is the time set for motions and marking of exhibits. The jury will return for witnesses at 1:00 pm.

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10 Responses to “CA vs. Spector – 400 Hours of Blogging Makes me an Expert”

  1. Sprocket said

    Just wanted to let you know that every week, I print out your Spector coverage for Mr. Dunne, who is really enjoying reading your take on the trial.

  2. Just wanted to let you know that every week, I print out your Spector coverage for Mr. Dunne, who is really enjoying reading your take on the trial.

    Oh good god in heaven, don’t tell me that. He’s my favorite author – well, besides Stephen King – but don’t mention that to him, please. Just tell him I adore his work.

    I’ve loved and collected his books since way back to “The Two Mrs. Grenville’s” and I still have a stack of Vanity Fair magazines back to the early 80’s – I can’t bear to part with them because of his articles.

    He’s a real favorite of mine, and I feel really honored he’s even glancing at anything I might write.

    Kim

  3. Jim said

    I’m no Dominick Dunne, but let me humbly say that I am sooo very happy to have found your coverage — it is what I was looking for and scavenging through the various “news” reports trying to find. You have the voice I wanted to hear!

  4. annie said

    Kim, I just want you to know how much I enjoy your writing and point of view. I’m following the trial online, and on the boards, but I always check your blog because you put it together into a perfect picture at the end of the day. Plus, you say the things I’m thinking and can’t post on the board. Thanks!!

  5. I’m no Dominick Dunne, but let me humbly say that I am sooo very happy to have found your coverage — it is what I was looking for and scavenging through the various “news” reports trying to find. You have the voice I wanted to hear!

    And I’m no Stephen King, but I really appreciate that you are enjoying what I write. I really love that so many people are interested in this trial right along with me, and can comment and make such astute and challenging observations on the evidence, the lawyers, and all the side issues. It’s nice to know that some of my own observations are echoed by all the blog readers.

    It’s validating to know that my “voice” isn’t a lone one out in left field.

    Kim

  6. Susan not Sue said

    Hi Kit and Sprocket,

    Please tell Mr. Dunne that his many friends from Ross, CA are following this trial(via satellite from Lake Tahoe) and anxiously awaiting his next update in Vanity Fair.

  7. Sue Wikoff said

    God, you’re funny. I sat here reading this and laughed till I cried. You are sooooo on top of all this BS, it totally cracks me up. Do you really sew for a living? You ought to be a writer for Ellen, Jay or Dave. Seriously. I’m so glad I found your blog. It’s the best.

    Sue

  8. Do you really sew for a living?

    No, I don’t sew for a living. I sew just for fun, much the same way I watch trials or read thick dusty legal books – just for fun.

    Actually, I do nothing “for a living”, besides maybe take care of my husband, and one could argue that I don’t even do that with much success – he pretty much takes care of me.

    You ought to be a writer for Ellen, Jay or Dave.

    That would be boring, though. I can’t imagine putting words in someone else’s mouth. Shit, I can’t even get my husband to say “yes, dear” as often as I would like.

    Thanks for reading, and I am glad you are enjoying the blog.

    Kim

  9. njgill said

    I really could not be less interested in Phil Spector or his fate, but your reportage and commentary have kept me spellbound. I think you should write a book about the trial and your blog and the responses you have received.

  10. Sue Wikoff said

    You sew for fun….in the 8th grade, it took me pretty much a year to finish a tea towel. Everyone else had made their aprons and were working on skirts or blouses. But, get this….I made a quilt when I was about 10. I guess I used up all my skills on that. I remember my grandma’s treadle machine. I think it was a White or Singer.

    So sorry about your near fatal accident but glad you are well enough to write about it. You’re a tough dudette.

    Sue

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