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Spector jury asked to 'seek the truth'

Defense attorney tells the panel that evidence shows Lana Clarkson took her own life.

September 07, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County prosecutors ignored or manipulated the facts to make Phil Spector "the first celebrity notch in the government's gun belt," an attorney for the music producer argued Thursday in the final phase of his defense.

Spector, 67, has been on trial for four months in the death of actress Lana Clarkson.

"Seek the truth," attorney Linda Kenney Baden implored jurors during her four-hour summation of the case, which is expected to go to the jury this afternoon or Monday.

The Los Angeles County district attorney was determined to convict a celebrity of murder because of the office's history of "bad results" in high-profile cases, Kenney Baden said, alluding to the acquittals of O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake on murder charges.

Clarkson, 40, who starred in the cult film "Barbarian Queen" and had numerous bit parts on television and in commercials, was found shot through the mouth in Spector's Alhambra mansion on Feb. 3, 2003. She had met Spector, the pop music pioneer who produced the Righteous Brothers and the Beatles, earlier that night at the House of Blues nightclub in West Hollywood, where she worked as a VIP hostess.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, September 08, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Phil Spector trial: An article and photo caption in Friday's California section about closing arguments in the Phil Spector murder trial misspelled defense lawyer Linda Kenney Baden's last name as Kenny Baden.

The six-lawyer defense team has maintained that Clarkson, despondent over career, financial and romantic struggles, shot herself.

Kenny Baden said it may be a mystery why Clarkson took her life, but it is clear she did so.

Clarkson was shot with the muzzle of the revolver in her mouth -- which 99% of the time means the wound was self-inflicted, Kenney Baden said.

The most important piece of evidence, she said, was the white jacket Spector was wearing the night of the shooting. The relatively few, tiny bloodstains on the jacket show Spector was standing too far from Clarkson for him to have been holding the revolver when it went off in her mouth.

Had Spector pulled the trigger of the .38-caliber snub-nose revolver, the white jacket would have been heavily stained with Clarkson's blood and tissue, as well as gunshot residue, Kenney Baden said. But the cuffs of Spector's jacket have no blood or gunshot residue, she said.

A bloodstain on the right tricep area of the jacket's sleeve also shows that Spector raised his arm defensively, exposing it to the spattering blood, which he could not have done if he had fired the gun, she said.

The violent, high-pressure explosion of gases in her mouth blew the crowns of Clarkson's teeth out of her mouth, but there was no dental material found on Spector, another indication that he wasn't the shooter, Kenney Baden said. "The shooter would have blocked the teeth," she said.

Spector's home also showed no indications of a struggle, such as toppled furniture, Kenney Baden said. Clarkson, she said, had "no ripped hose, no blood under her nails" or other signs she had fought with Spector.

Spector, frail, diminutive and 63 at the time, also was not bruised, which would have been likely had he tried to force himself on the nearly 6-foot-tall, athletic Clarkson, Kenney Baden said.

She cited Spector's DNA on Clarkson's breast and DNA likely to be Clarkson's on Spector's groin area as signs of sexual contact. Kenney Baden said that the DNA refutes the prosecution claim that Clarkson spurned Spector's advances and was shot as she tried to leave his home.

The fact that Clarkson's purse was on her shoulder also did not necessarily mean that she was set to leave Spector's home, the lawyer said. Other women who claimed Spector threatened them at gunpoint testified in the trial that he would sometimes disappear for hours at a time. Kenney Baden said Clarkson could have put her purse on her shoulder while waiting for Spector to return after he left her alone.

A prominent New York attorney specializing in scientific evidence, Kenney Baden also addressed the prosecution's allegation that Spector is relying on a "checkbook defense" of high-powered lawyers and experts. Among the defense's famous science experts is Kenney Baden's husband, Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who testified he expects to be paid more than $100,000 for his work in the trial.

Prosecutors, Kenney Baden said, had the upper hand with the full resources of the government and abused their power. "We don't have an office with hundreds of lawyers, hundreds of investigators and a billion-dollar budget," she said.

"Despite the fact that science shows this to be a self-inflicted wound," Kenney Baden said, "the government wanted this tragic death to be a murder. No one wanted to stop that steamroller."

Kenny Baden is set to conclude her arguments today, followed by final remarks from prosecutors and legal instructions from the judge, before jurors begin their deliberations.

peter.hong@latimes.com

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