Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

'A Cherry Bomb in the Mouth'

Deputy DA Allan Jackson
Deputy DA Allan Jackson

On cross-examination, Deputy DA Allan Jackson repeatedly asked DiMaio if his conclusions were based on the particulars of this case or on general forensic statistics. Jackson's questioning was rigorous and often contentious; DiMaio's responses were withering, bordering on condescension.

Jackson brought up the bruising on Lana Clarkson's tongue. DiMaio stated that such bruising could not have been caused by someone simply jamming a gun barrel into her mouth. He explained that the tongue is a muscle that needs more force to bruise. He testified that it was the gases released from the gunshot that caused the bruising. It was like "setting off a cherry bomb in the mouth," DiMaio said.

Sheriff's Department criminalist, Dr. Lynne Herold, had previously testified that she had found evidence that Clarkson's body had been moved after death, but DiMaio cast doubt on that assessment, pointing out that a body can move by itself after death for various reasons, including the force of gunshot gases in the mouth.

Prosecutor Jackson challenged DiMaio on his testimony point for point. As for DiMaio's statement that women most often take their own lives with guns, Jackson cited statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that poison is the most common method of suicide among white women in Lana Clarkson's age group. In response DiMaio said, "You haven't talked to the CDC; I have." He added that 40% of death certificates used by the CDC contain erroneous information.

No blood was found on Spector's hands after Clarkson's death, but blood was found smeared all around the his house. Investigators discovered a wet and bloody diaper next to one of the toilets. Jackson asked DiMaio if it was possible that Spector had washing his hands in the toilet.

"You usually wash your hands in the sink, not the toilet," DiMaio answered, eliciting laughter from members of the jury.

"What if you just killed somebody?" Jackson asked.

DiMaio would not concede the possibility, saying that people are creatures of habit and it was safe to assume that Phil Spector normally washed his hands in the sink.

DiMaio also commented on the size difference between the short, slight Spector and Clarkson who was almost six-feet tall, saying that if there had been a struggle for control of the gun, in all likelihood she would have overpowered him.

Jackson asked DiMaio if he was testifying more as an advocate for the defense than as an impartial scientist. DiMaio had repeatedly said throughout his testimony that his opinions were based on scientific objectivity, but he admitted that he was being paid $400 an hour for his services.

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