Coroner: Clarkson tongue bruised before gunshot


The barrel of a gun may have been forced into actress Lana Clarkson's mouth, bruising her tongue before the gunshot that killed her, a coroner testified Tuesday in record producer Phil Spector's murder trial.

Dr. Louis Pena acknowledged it was the first time he testified about the bruise, which was not mentioned earlier in the case.

Pena said he was asked by prosecutors to go back and examine it and he also said he discussed the matter with his colleagues before reaching a conclusion.

"The bruise is very unique and is consistent with blunt-force trauma. Something struck the tongue," Pena said.

Asked whether the bruise was made before the shot that killed Clarkson, Pena said it was.

"If the barrel of the gun, a steel weapon, was placed in the mouth with some force, could that have caused the bruising on the tongue?" asked prosecutor Alan Jackson.

"Yes," said Pena.

The testimony was offered to undermine the defense claim that Clarkson placed the gun in her own mouth and pulled the trigger in an act of suicide.

Spector, 67, is accused of murdering Clarkson, 40, around 5 a.m. on Feb. 3, 2003, after she agreed to accompany him to his suburban mansion from her job as a hostess at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip.

Jurors were shown graphic, sometimes shocking, photos of the damage done to Clarkson's face and the inside of her mouth.

At least one juror looked away from the large display on a movie screen, and for the first time Clarkson's mother and sister were not present in the courtroom.

Pena gave a powerful description of the moment that the actress died. He said the gun was in her mouth and the recoil from the shot shattered her top front teeth, blowing them out of her mouth.

Jackson asked Pena to describe the incapacitation that followed the shot.

Pena said that the shot went through her head, severed her spine and death would have been almost instantaneous.

"She's gonna lose consciousness," he said. "She won't be able to move her arms. All the arm movement up here including out to the fingers, everything's just gonna go. Wherever she's at she's going down, bottom line. Respiration ... will cease. Heart rate may still go a little bit but not very long, but it could go. The blood pressure will drop pretty rapidly after that, after the shot. All brain functions will cease. She'll not talk. She'll not scream. She won't cry."

Pena also testified that Clarkson would not have exhaled or coughed.

"So she could not expel blood forcefully out of her mouth after that shot was fired?" Jackson asked.

"That's correct," Pena said.

Pena also testified that there were bruises on Clarkson's right arm and wrist and described two of the bruises as "significant."

Pena also offered the jury diagrams that showed the path of the bullet going slightly upward from the mouth to the base of the skull, but said that he could not determine what position Clarkson's head was in at the time the shot was fired. He gauged the trajectory while her body was lying on an autopsy table.

Spector rose to fame in the 1960s with what became known as the "Wall of Sound" recording technique that changed pop music. Clarkson was best known for her role in Roger Corman's 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen."