Spector DNA not detected on gun, witness says


Phil Spector's DNA was not found on the gun that killed Lana Clarkson, a criminalist testified Monday, but he suggested it might have been hidden under the large amount of the actress' blood on the weapon.

Sheriff's criminalist Steve Renteria, called by the prosecution in Spector's murder trial, acknowledged that numerous items analyzed by the crime lab showed only the DNA of the dead woman.

"Just because Lana Clarkson was the sole donor (of DNA) that doesn't mean that nobody else on Earth came in contact with those things?" Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson asked the witness

"Correct," replied Renteria. "It all has to do with the amount of cells present."

He noted that a large smear of blood on the banister of a staircase next to her body showed only her DNA.

"There could have been trace cells from another donor," he said, but they would have been overwhelmed by the large smear.

"I didn't see his DNA but it could have been there underlying," said the witness.

Defense attorney Christopher Plourd, cross-examining the witness, elicited testimony that Spector's DNA was also not detected on the bullets found in the gun.

The defense is expected to argue that the absence of Spector's DNA on the gun means he did not pull the trigger and that Clarkson killed herself. The prosecution may argue that Spector wiped off the gun at some point.

Clarkson, 40, died on Feb. 3, 2003, from a single shot fired from a revolver in her mouth. Her body was found slumped in a chair in the foyer of Spector's Alhambra mansion. The gun was found by police on the floor by one of her feet.

Best known for her role in the movie, "Barbarian Queen," she was working at the House of Blues when she met Spector and agreed to go home with him for a drink after closing time. Spector's chauffeur said that at 5 a.m. he heard a loud noise and saw Spector emerge from his home holding a gun and saying, "I think I killed somebody."

With the emphasis on forensic evidence as the trial entered its seventh week, Renteria also testified about the unexpected absence of blood spray from Clarkson on a wall near her body or on the carpet in front of it, suggesting something or someone in front of her could have blocked it.

Renteria, who set up the Sheriff's Department's DNA program in 1994, said he sprayed the area around Clarkson's body with Luminol, a chemical designed to detect blood unseen by the naked eye.

Oddly, he said, there was no blood on the wall next to her body or on the carpet.

"Had there been blood spray, would Luminol have detected it?" asked Jackson.

"Yes, definitely," said Renteria.

"Is an explanation for the lack of blood that something was standing between Ms. Clarkson and the wall, blocking it?" asked Jackson.

"That is one explanation, yes," said the witness.

Renteria said Spector's and Clarkson's DNA were both found on a pair of brandy snifters in the house, and tests of Clarkson's wrists yielded DNA primarily from her but included a "minor donor" who was Spector.

Renteria testified that an old-fashioned cloth Curity diaper found in a downstairs bathroom contained three bloodstains matching Clarkson's DNA and a fourth stain with Clarkson's DNA and a little bit of DNA that could only be identified as male.

In a hearing with jurors absent, defense attorney Roger Rosen made a motion for mistrial contending the defense was kept in the dark about a man who came forward to accuse defense experts of hiding evidence. The incident set off a chain reaction which has led to the judge questioning the credibility of famed forensic expert Henry Lee and threatening to hold a lawyer in contempt unless she testifies about Lee's role in the case to the jury.

Sara Caplan, a former lawyer for Spector, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday when the issue may be resolved.

The judge rejected Rosen's motion, which claimed other prosecution violations.

"I don't see anything here that rises to the level of stopping this trial and starting again," said Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler. "... The motion is denied."

Spector, 67, rose to fame in the 1960s with his revolutionary "Wall of Sound" recording technique.