Expert testifies on DNA in Spector case
EmptyDNA consistent with Phil Spector's genetic markers was found on Lana Clarkson's left breast but was not present on any part of the gun that killed her or the bullets in the weapon and was not under her broken fingernail, a sheriff's criminalist testified Tuesday in the record producer's murder trial.
Steve Renteria, who said he has worked with DNA analysis since 1994, made the disclosures under cross-examination by defense attorney Christopher Plourd. A prosecutor had not raised the issue of DNA on the actress' breast during his inquiry.
"The left (breast) swab from Lana Clarkson yielded a mixed profile that was consistent with two donors," said Renteria. "The major donor in that sample was Lana Clarkson herself -- it's her own skin surface so one would predict that -- and the minor donor, the types found, were consistent with -- were originating from Phil Spector."
However, Renteria said he could find no DNA consistent with Spector on the gun or the bullets in the fully loaded weapon. Only one bullet had been expended from the snub-nose .38-caliber revolver.
As for the nail scrapings from Clarkson's right thumb, Plourd asked, "None of the DNA came back as Phil Spector's?"
"That's true," said Renteria.
The lack of DNA on the gun could raise questions about what a chauffeur saw at Spector's home. He testified that he saw the record producer emerge from his home holding a bloody gun and declare, "I think I killed somebody."
The gun was found on the floor beside Clarkson's leg.
The lack of DNA from Spector under Clarkson's fingernail would support a defense theory that that there was no struggle between the pair and that the gun evidence further suggests that Clarkson pulled the trigger.
The prosecution has fought to get a missing piece of Clarkson's acrylic nail which they claim a defense forensic expert found and withheld. Prosecutors have suggested it would help to show the angle of the gun when it was fired and might prove a struggle was involved.
The finding of what is likely Spector's DNA on Clarkson's breast may remind jurors of testimony by sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfield, who said he felt there were "sexual overtones" to the death scene from the moment he saw the blond, leggy actress slumped in a chair in Spector's foyer, her face and her short slip dress soaked in blood.
Clarkson, 40, the onetime star of the movie "Barbarian Queen," died around 5 a.m. on Feb. 3, 2003, from the single shot fired with the gun in her mouth. She had met Spector just hours earlier while she was working as a hostess at The House of Blues nightclub. He asked her to accompany him to his mansion for a drink.
Prosecutors have relied on testimony from a parade of women who claimed Spector threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence after dates. The defense has contended that scientific evidence would prove that Clarkson killed herself.
Renteria explained to jurors the intricacies of DNA testing and the potential for contamination as well as the frequency figures that would isolate Spector's DNA to him and no one else in the world. But he did not offer any theories about how Spector's DNA came to be on Clarkson's breast.
Nor would he say absolutely that Spector was the DNA "donor," only that he was the likeliest donor of anyone in the world population.
"So the inference there is that for all practical scientific purposes Mr. Phillip Spector's DNA was on that left (breast) that was collected, is that true?" Plourd asked.
"I wouldn't say that. The number is slightly over the world population which is about 6.6 billion and usually I will have to have that frequency estimate get well above over 100 times the world's population for me to have an opinion personally that that DNA came from that person," Renteria said.
He was more absolute in his analysis of portions of the gun. Testing the barrel of the gun, inside and out, he found only one DNA donor.
"All of the DNA came back to one contributor -- Lana Clarkson," Plourd asked.
"Yes, it did," said Renteria.
The witness also gave jurors an example of how DNA can become contaminated. He said that during testing in the Spector case his own DNA wound up in a "control" test tube by accident. He said in such a large laboratory with so many employees incidents of contamination can occur.
"I had confidence the other samples were fine," he said.
Spector, 67, became famous in the 1960s and '70s when his "Wall of Sound" technique revolutionized the recording of rock 'n roll music.