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Director denies snubbing Clarkson before she died

Michael Bay disputes defense testimony in the Spector trial, saying, `It never happened.'

July 24, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Film director Michael Bay on Monday disputed defense testimony that he had snubbed Lana Clarkson shortly before her death, saying he had worked with the actress and would have remembered any encounter.

"It never happened," he said in a telephone interview from Japan. "Wouldn't it be a big moment in one's life if you saw someone at a party, and two days later she was killed? Life's made of memories, and that would be a big memory."

Punkin Pie Laughlin, a nightclub promoter who said Clarkson was her closest friend, testified earlier this month that the 40-year-old cult actress was depressed about her faltering acting career, had financial problems and was a heavy drinker.

Clarkson was shot to death Feb. 3, 2003, at the Alhambra mansion of Phil Spector, the legendary producer of music for the Beatles, Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner. He is on trial for allegedly killing her when she tried to leave his home after a nightcap.

Laughlin testified that Clarkson was so fragile she broke into tears when Bay, whose most recent film is "Transformers," did not recognize her at a party days before her death.

The defense presented Laughlin's testimony to bolster its contention that Clarkson killed herself.

Bay said he spoke to prosecutors to contest Laughlin's televised account. He also posted a detailed denial on his website.

In court Monday, a defense expert testified that bloodstains on Spector's jacket the night of Clarkson's shooting could show that he was standing too far away to have fired the fatal shot.

Stuart James, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., forensic science consultant who specializes in analyzing bloodstains, said his experiments show that airborne blood can travel as far as six feet. The prosecution has claimed that blood sprayed from a gunshot wound can go no farther than three feet because of gravity and air resistance.

But under cross-examination by prosecutor Alan Jackson, James acknowledged that he could not say for certain that Spector was standing too far from Clarkson to have shot her.

Spector's blood-speckled jacket is now at the center of the defense's case for his acquittal. The size, pattern and number of blood spots on the jacket show that Spector was standing farther than an arm's length from Clarkson, who suffered a fatal shot inside her mouth, the defense contends.

Clarkson was found slumped in a chair with her legs extended straight in front of her. Blood-spatter stains appeared on the front of her dress, but not on her outstretched legs, prosecutor Jackson noted.

He asked James why, if the blood had flown farther than the length of Clarkson's thigh-length skirt, there wouldn't have been drops on her legs. James said he "had issues" with whether Clarkson's legs were extended at the moment she was shot.

Jackson then asked James if Spector's jacket could have been sprayed with blood if he was standing next to her.

The prosecutor moved to within three feet of James, who was seated at the witness stand, and stood with his arm extended to illustrate how Spector might have shot Clarkson. James acknowledged it was possible Spector was standing that close.

Spector attorney Linda Kenney Baden then asked James whether, if Spector had fired the gun, his outstretched arm would have blocked some of the blood spatter, leaving a "void" in the stains on Clarkson's dress. James agreed.

Jackson then asked if the blood could have simply traveled under the gunman's arm, leaving no void. James said he did not feel he could make conclusions, and could say only, "There was no void, period." James is one of several forensics experts to testify for the defense. Prominent criminalist Henry Lee is also scheduled to testify, though in news interviews he has expressed some doubt about appearing.

Lee had been rattled by a ruling from Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler that he improperly withheld evidence from prosecutors, an object described as fingernail-sized. Prosecutors had delayed resting their case to present witnesses on the fingernail dispute. On Monday, they called their final witness, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Richard Tomlin. He testified that he never received anything like a nail fragment from the defense.

After Tomlin's testimony, the prosecution rested its case in chief.

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