Prosecutor accuses Spector witness of invention
EmptyA prosecutor in Phil Spector's murder trial angrily accused noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden Wednesday of inventing a new theory about the death of Lana Clarkson at the behest of defense attorneys who include his wife, Linda Kenney-Baden, in an effort to bolster the defense case.
Baden said the accusation was "completely untrue."
Prosecutor Alan Jackson, in his second day of a contentious cross-examination of the New York pathologist, challenged him on the opinion first expounded Tuesday that Clarkson's spinal cord was not completely severed when a bullet tore through her mouth on Feb. 3, 2003. The opinion supports defense claims that Clarkson could have spewed blood onto Spector's jacket with her dying gasps after she was shot.
Baden's theory offers an explanation of how Spector could have gotten specks of blood on his jacket if he didn't shoot her, which prosecutors contend he did.
Spector's lawyers say Clarkson shot herself.
A prosecution expert has testified that Spector had to be within two or three feet for blood backspatter to land on his jacket, and the coroner who performed the autopsy told the jury that Clarkson's severed spine would have caused almost instantaneous death and she wouldn't have exhaled or expelled blood forcefully out of her mouth.
Baden said her spinal cord was not completely transected by the bullet but may have been torn further during transportation to the morgue.
Jackson elicited from Baden testimony that he had been working on the case for four years since he attended the autopsy of Clarkson's body a day after her death.
"And you just came up with this epiphany on Sunday?" asked Jackson.
"Yes," said Baden who objected to use of the word "epiphany" and said it was an opinion.
He explained that he arrived in Los Angeles last Thursday, spent time with his ailing wife who has been absent from the trial due to illness, and met with defense attorney Christopher Plourd on Sunday.
"And did Mr. Plourd say the defense was unhappy with the way (other experts) held up on cross-examination and we had to put Lana Clarkson's spine back together?" Jackson asked.
"Mr. Jackson," Baden said firmly, "that's completely untrue."
He said his wife played no role in the discussions because she was on strong medications and sedated.
Jackson asked if he had consulted with some of the other experts whose testimony never mentioned a theory similar to his.
"I didn't speak to them and I didn't speak to my wife about it," he said. "I didn't think it was such a big deal."
"Are you aware that no one else has testified to that?" Jackson asked.
"Yes, I am aware of it," Baden said.
Spector, 67, a legendary music producer, is accused of shooting Clarkson, 40, to death at his suburban Alhambra mansion hours after she went home with him from her job as a House of Blues hostess.
Baden was the latest in a long line of defense experts to come under attack by Jackson, who has portrayed them as hired guns paid to give opinions favorable to the defense. He stressed that Baden will have been paid $110,000 by the time he finishes testifying.
Jackson devoted much of his cross-examination to suggesting that Baden can't be trusted because he is married to one of the defense attorneys and has a conflict of interest.
Baden adamantly denied that and said he had formed most of his opinions in the case before his wife was hired to join the defense team last year. He said his only interest was "a fair trial for Mr. Spector."
He said his wife met with Spector before she signed on to make sure he would be comfortable with both Badens being involved. Baden said there was an agreement that his wife would not question him if he took the witness stand.
"And the reason your wife would never take you on direct (examination) is because the conflict would be so glaring," the prosecutor said in an accusatory tone.
"No," said Baden. "It's because someone like you would make it appear dirty and it would harm the client."
"Isn't it true you were orchestrating all the expert testimony behind the scenes with your wife?" asked Jackson.
"That's completely untrue," said Baden, who added that the other experts were renowned in their fields.
"I'm a schlemiel compared to them," he said, drawing laughter in the courtroom. "We talked. But I would be presumptuous to tell them what to say."
He reiterated his finding that Clarkson's death was from a self-inflicted gunshot to the mouth. He said that in his long career he has seen only one intra-oral gunshot death that was ruled a homicide and that involved three people holding down the victim so a gun could be forced into the mouth.
Asked if an intra-oral wound could be a homicide, he said, "It's possible but in my experience in thousands of homicides, it never happens."