Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

'An A-Ha Moment'

The defense called Donna Clarkson, Lana Clarkson's mother, to the stand to give testimony regarding letters she found at her daughters apartment, which appeared to be letters of reference from major film and television executives, but the defense and prosecution agreed that they had been forged. Lana Clarkson had apparently been using these references to get a loan from her friend, the late Hugo Quackenbush, founder of Charles Schwab Corporation. The defense intended to show that these letters demonstrated how desperate her personal situation had become. (One of these letters appeared to be from NBC casting executive Marc Hirschfeld, who later testified that he never wrote or signed such a letter for Clarkson.)

Deputy DA Allan Jackson
Deputy DA Allan Jackson

On cross-examination, Deputy DA Alan Jackson took the opportunity to ask Clarkson's mother about her last meeting with her daughter. Donna Clarkson explained that they gone shopping for shoes on the afternoon before her daughter died. Lana needed comfortable flat shoes for her job at the House of Blues. She had intended to buy one pair but ended up buying seven. According to her mother, she went directly from their shopping trip to work.

The next witness, noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, lighted the fuse on a legal powder keg when he took the stand and offered a new defense theory as to how Lana Clarkson's blood got on Phil Spector's white jacket. Baden, who had been present at Clarkson's autopsy, said he "had an 'a-ha' moment" on the Sunday afternoon before his testimony. The amount of fluid in Clarkson's lungs, he said, indicated to him that her spine had not been completely severed by the gun blast. Dr. Baden testified that Clarkson had continued to breathe for 2 to 4 minutes after the shooting, accounting for the heavy state of her lungs. He went on to theorize that after she shot herself, Spector ran to her aid, and she coughed up blood onto him.

The prosecution objected vociferously that they had not been informed of this new theory, a clear violation of the rules of discovery. An angry Judge Fidler sent the jury out and dressed down the defense team for such a flagrant violation, noting that this was not the first time they had withheld evidence from the prosecution.

Spector's attorneys argued that the new theory had evolved so recently they didn't have a chance to share it. But the judge wasn't buying it. "I have no doubt, and I will say it as clearly as I can, this was done to gain a tactical advantage," Fidler said. The judge stated that he would explain the defense's behavior in his instructions to the jury and advise them to take this into account when evaluating witness testimony.

When testimony resumed, Dr. Baden said that he could not conclude from the evidence that Lana Clarkson intended to kill herself. "She may have been playing with the weapon, or looking at it, or have been reckless," he said.

On cross, Baden was asked about conflicts of interest in this case because his wife, Linda Kenney Baden, is one of Spector's attorneys. "My only interest is that Mr. Spector gets a fair hearing based on the information that is available to me," Baden said. He revealed that the fee for his services in this case would be about $110,000.

Deputy DA Jackson asked Baden if he had in any way directed the testimonies of two previous expert witnesses, Dr. Werner Spitz and Dr. Vincent DiMaio, who share his opinion that Lana Clarkson shot herself. Baden rejected the notion, saying that they are more prominent in the field of forensics than he is. "I'm a schlemiel compared to them," Baden said.

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