Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Phil Spector: The 'Mad Genius' of Rock'n'Roll

'One Plus One Equals Five'

Dr. Vincent DiMaio
Dr. Vincent DiMaio

The first witness called by the defense was Dr. Vincent DiMaio, former chief medical examiner of Bexar County, Texas, which includes the city of San Antonio. DiMaio testified that "The objective evidence is most consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound," supporting the defense's contention that Lana Clarkson's death was an accidental suicide.

On the stand for three days, DiMaio gave extensive testimony on a wide array of forensic areas and challenged some of the testimony previously given by Los Angles County Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr Louis Pena, for the prosecution.

Dr. Pena had told the jury that female suicide victims rarely use guns and almost never shoot themselves in the face. But Dr. DiMaio testified that women who intend to end their lives most often use handguns and that "ninety-nine percent" of intra-oral gunshot deaths are "suicides." He added, "In my whole career I have seen three homicides that were intra-oral," casting doubt on the prosecution's contention that Phil Spector shot Clarkson through the mouth.

When asked his opinion as to why Clarkson had not left a suicide note, DiMaio responded that most suicides are spontaneous acts and most people who kill themselves do not leave notes.

The analysis of Clarkson's blood after death showed a 0.12 alcohol level. (The legal limit for driving is 0.08.) Dr. Pena had previous testified that traces of the over-the-counter pain-reliever Aleve and the prescription painkiller Vicodin were found in her system but in low doses. On the stand Dr. DiMaio explained that the combination of alcohol and Vicodin created a "synergistic action." "It's not one plus one equals two, "DiMaio testified, "it's one plus one equals five."

Defense questioning then moved on to the issue of how far blood spatter could travel from an intra-oral gunshot wound. DiMaio agreed with the defense's position that blood could have sprayed as far as six feet, staining Phil Spector's white jacket. But the prosecution argued that blood spatter could travel only three feet under these circumstances, proving that Spector was within range to have fired a gun into the victim's mouth. Supporting the defense's theory, DiMaio told to the jury that with an intra-oral gunshot, gases are trapped in the mouth and create a violent explosion. "The gas is now like a whirlwind," he said. "It ejects out of the mouth, out of the nose."

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