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In closing, Spector defense says all evidence points to suicide

March 25, 2009|Harriet Ryan
  • In closing arguments Tuesday, defense attorney Doron Weinberg told jurors that blood spatters on the gun prove that Phil Spector wasn?t holding it when it went off.
In closing arguments Tuesday, defense attorney Doron Weinberg told jurors… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

In a closing argument urging a jury to acquit Phil Spector, a defense lawyer Tuesday framed the legendary music producer's murder retrial as a competition between the prosecution's portrait of a gun-crazy misogynist and hard evidence offered by the defense.

"The prosecution has a story, but we are telling you about science," Doron Weinberg told jurors.

The defense attorney cited 14 pieces of forensic evidence that he said proved the shooting of actress Lana Clarkson six years ago was suicide, not murder. Blood spatters on the grip of the .38 Special that killed her, Weinberg said, prove that Spector did not have his hands on the gun. He also cited Clarkson's broken fingernail, suggesting that it cracked when she pulled the trigger.

All 14 pieces of forensic evidence "are pointing in the same direction -- Philip Spector's innocence," he said.

As in Spector's 2007 trial, which ended in a hung jury, both sides claim forensics as their ally. Arguing for a conviction Monday, a prosecutor contended that the same type of microscopic bloodstains highlighted by the defense prove that Spector was within arm's length of the actress when the gun went off.

In his summation, Weinberg said the prosecution misrepresented evidence to aid its theory that the producer shot Clarkson when she tried to leave his Alhambra mansion.

He said all evidence was consistent with suicide. Clarkson died when the gun discharged in her mouth -- an injury known as "intraoral gunshot wound." Medical experts testified that in the vast majority of cases -- over 99%, according to some -- such wounds were self-inflicted.

"It doesn't make sense that an intraoral gunshot wound, particularly one involving a short barrel gun, would be a homicide," Weinberg said.

Responding to the prosecution's attacks on defense experts as hired guns, Weinberg said Spector had no choice but to defend himself.

"There are no charities out there who are paying for investigations for affluent people," he said.

In her closing argument Monday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Truc Do used a photo of sand dunes from her family's native Vietnam as a metaphor for what she said were the defense's constantly shifting theories.

Given his turn, Weinberg referred to the mountains of his native Israel.

"They were rock solid. They didn't have shifting sands," he said.

The defense attorney acknowledged obstacles for Spector.

Looking at the shooting "from the outside . . . you would say, 'Sure looks like he did it,' " the lawyer said. He said some panelists had expressed views in jury selection, including aversion to guns, that might worry a defense attorney.

But he told jurors that if they focused on the standard of proof required, he was confident they would acquit.

"It doesn't matter how close they came," Weinberg said. "The only question is, did they prove it beyond a reasonable doubt?"

Spector, 69, leaned back in his chair at the defense table with his arms clasped in front of him as his attorney spoke. The gallery behind him was packed with supporters who sat across the aisle from Clarkson's mother and sister.

Spector faces at least 18 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Jurors also will consider involuntary manslaughter, which carries a sentence of two to four years. Weinberg is expected to conclude his summation today.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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