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Same evidence is viewed two ways in Spector case

August 13, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Lacking eyewitness testimony of Lana Clarkson's shooting, prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Phil Spector murder trial have seized on physical evidence found at the scene to support opposing explanations of what happened at the music producer's Alhambra mansion the night she died.

Prosecutors say Spector shot Clarkson when she tried to leave, after accompanying him home from the House of Blues, where she worked as a VIP hostess. Defense lawyers say the 40-year-old actress, despondent over her fading Hollywood hopes, took her own life.

The Feb. 3, 2003, shooting took place in the faux castle's foyer, where Clarkson was found slumped in a chair, her legs outstretched. She had been shot with a revolver in her mouth.

Here is how some of the evidence fits into the competing versions of Clarkson's demise:

Viagra, tequila and false eyelashes: Did a drunken Spector shoot Clarkson when she spurned his romantic advances, as the prosecution alleges? Or were Clarkson and Spector intimate before she shot herself in an impulsive act, fueled by alcohol and Vicodin, as the defense contends?

A three-pack of Viagra with two tablets missing was found in Spector's briefcase, and an empty bottle of tequila and two glasses with Clarkson and Spector's fingerprints were left on a coffee table in the mansion's living room. Clarkson's false eyelashes were left next to a snifter of liquor in the bathroom.

The items could support both the defense and prosecution theories.

Gun: The prosecution says smeared blood on the murder weapon suggests Spector tried to wipe it clean, perhaps to remove his fingerprints.

The gun was found under Clarkson's left ankle; the 40-year-old actress was right-handed. Prosecutors say if she had shot herself, the gun would have dropped beneath her right hand. Defense attorneys say police could have moved the gun after the shooting. They note that a piece of wire from an electric Taser used to subdue Spector well after the shooting was also recovered from under Clarkson's foot.

Diaper: Prosecutors say a white cloth diaper, soaked with Clarkson's blood and left on the bathroom floor, was used to clean up the crime scene as part of Spector's efforts to cover up a murder. The defense contends Spector used the diaper to render aid to Clarkson.

Clothing: Up to 18 tiny drops of Clarkson's blood were found on the white women's jacket that Spector wore that night and was found upstairs. The defense argues the jacket would have been covered with blood if Spector had been close enough to fire with the gun barrel in Clarkson's mouth. The absence of blood on the jacket cuffs, in particular, is evidence he was not the shooter, his attorneys say.

The defense also contends that copious blood and tissue stains on Clarkson's black slip dress are signs she shot herself.

Prosecutors say the fact that Clarkson's dress was bloodied, while her outstretched legs were not, shows that the blood traveled no more than the length of her dress, about 3 feet. That puts Spector, whose jacket was spattered with blood, within shooting range, they suggest.

Defense experts say the absence of blood on Clarkson's legs means nothing. They contend her legs were extended only after she was shot, when she slumped in the chair.

The prosecution also maintains that blood in the pocket of Spector's trousers -- a pair of Haggar Expandomatic slacks -- could show he put the gun there after he shot Clarkson.

The defense says the lack of blood spatter on the trousers shows that Spector was standing too far away to have shot Clarkson.

Clarkson's purse was hanging backward over her shoulder. A prosecution expert testified that could suggest it had been placed there by someone else -- presumably Spector, the only other person in the house -- after her death.

Flat white object: Prosecutors say a small white object removed from the crime scene by defense criminalist Henry Lee and concealed from investigators was a piece of Lana Clarkson's acrylic fingernail, broken or blown off when she held her hands up in front of her face to block the gun. The defense says either there was no object, or it was something else, perhaps a carpet fiber, that was turned over to the prosecution. Defense experts say an acrylic fingernail would have melted in the heat of the gun blast.

Chauffeur: Driver Adriano DeSouza told 911 operators and police that Spector stood in the doorway holding a bloody gun and said, "I think I killed somebody." The defense says DeSouza probably misunderstood Spector, because of language difficulties (he is a native Portuguese speaker) or noise from an outdoor fountain.

peter.hong@latimes.com

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