Witness denies she said Spector should 'fry'

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Lana Clarkson's best friend denied on the witness stand Tuesday that she ever said Phil Spector should "fry" for the actress' death, and said many of her friends are angry at her for becoming a defense witness in the record producer's murder trial.

Punkin Irene Elizabeth Laughlin, known as Punkin Pie, spent more than two days on the stand, most of it under attack by a prosecutor who accused her of inventing a story of Clarkson's despondent state of mind before she died of a gunshot in the mouth in Spector's suburban Alhambra mansion on Feb. 3, 2003.

She acknowledged she didn't tell everything to detectives the day of Clarkson's death but said she was now telling the full story about Clarkson's depression and hopelessness in the final days of her life.

"I had to get it out," she said.

Before Laughlin left the stand, prosecutor Alan Jackson made a final attempt to discredit her, asking if she told an acquaintance that Spector should "fry" for Clarkson's death.

"Not that I remember," said Laughlin. "I don't think I would have ever said that."

"As you sit here today, do you remember using that phrase to anybody?" asked Jackson.

"No," said Laughlin. "I never believed that, so I don't remember ever saying that."

Spector's defense contends Clarkson shot herself.

Laughlin was followed to the stand by Alhambra police Officer James Hammond, who described Spector's arrest.

He said Spector would not take his hands out of his pockets and stood unresponsive to police commands.

"He knew we were there but his stare was a blank stare," he said. "He wouldn't look at us."

At one point, he said, Spector removed his empty hands from his pockets but then put them back in.

He said his partner used a Taser on Spector but it didn't work and the other officer then knocked Spector down with a shield. He said he and the other officer piled onto Spector and handcuffed him.

He acknowledged under questioning by defense attorney Bradley Brunon that Spector was not resisting, but said under prosecution questioning that the important thing was to see Spector's hands to know he was unarmed.

"The hands are what kill us," he said. "If we can see the hands, we can control what's going on."

Brunon asked if Spector, on the ground, made the statement: "I can explain."

"I don't recall any statement," said Hammond, and the judge ordered jurors to disregard the question.

The defense also called two toxicologists who said Spector and Clarkson had prescription drugs and alcohol in their systems. Clarkson was found to have taken Vicodin, a painkiller, and Spector had three drugs: the antidepressant Prozac and the anti-seizure medications Topamax and Neurontin.

Robert Alan Middleberg, a forensic toxicologist from Willow Grove, Pa., who said his laboratory did the toxicology work in the Anna Nicole Smith case, said the drugs Spector was taking are known to cause tremors.

"It's what a lay person would call the shakes," he said.

Jurors have observed Spector's hands shaking throughout the trial. The defense contends he did not have the physical ability to fire the gun that killed Clarkson.

Middleberg said the amount of hydrocodone, or Vicodin, found in Clarkson's system along with alcohol was enough to cause sleepiness, impaired judgment and impaired care and caution.

He said she might not have appeared drunk but, "You can be impaired by alcohol without being drunk."

On cross-examination, the prosecutor tried to get Middleberg to say that the amount of alcohol consumed by Spector during the hours before Clarkson's death would have made him intoxicated. There was little alcohol detected in his urine test which was taken some 13 hours after he was arrested.

The witness said many factors had to be considered including whether drinks were sipped over a long period, food intake, the person's metabolic rate and how they handle liquor.

Asked what he would say if the person had a history of drinking and showed signs of intoxication such as an unsteady gait and slurred speech, Middleberg said, "If you combine a drinking history with observed signs, it becomes a lot stronger."

The prosecution claims Spector had a history of threatening women with guns when he was drunk.

Spector, 67, gained fame with his "Wall of Sound" music recording technique. Clarkson, 40, found modest fame as the star of a cult movie, "Barbarian Queen," in the 1980s.
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