Spector expert says Clarkson shot herself


A noted forensic pathologist testifying for the defense in Phil Spector's murder trial said Wednesday he concluded actress Lana Clarkson shot herself to death and it was most likely a suicide.

Dr. Werner Spitz also suggested that a Los Angeles County deputy medical examiner leaped to an improper conclusion in ruling Clarkson's death a homicide.

"I think she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Spitz said under defense questioning.

Of the deputy medical examiner's homicide conclusion, he said, "I disagree with his opinion. I think it was a hasty opinion. I think it was an opinion without due consideration."

Spitz, who presented a lengthy resume that included longtime service as chief medical examiner for Wayne County, Mich., did not immediately go into detail supporting his conclusions. But he said he looked at autopsy records and indicated he surveyed accounts of Clarkson's life.

"There are exceptions, but ... in the general, average, daily case it's almost impossible to determine with any degree of accuracy what somebody was thinking from an autopsy," he said.

"So how do you arrive at that (conclusion)?" Spitz added. "Either you go out yourself or you find documentations on what happened to this person, what surrounded this person, what drove this person, what made her tick. In other words, what kind of a person was this?

"I'd never met Lana Clarkson, so I don't really know her at all. So I have to base my opinion on what other people say about her -- people who knew her, people who knew her well, people who knew her less well, and people like physicians who had seen her."

He said he put that together with physical evidence, including photos that he looked at over and over. He likened it to repeatedly seeing a movie and noticing more and more things each time.

Spitz said that in the case of a self-inflicted wound it can be an accident or a suicide.

"In my opinion," he said of Clarkson's death, "it is most likely a suicide."

Clarkson, 40, died of a gunshot fired inside her mouth on Feb. 3, 2003. Her body was in a chair in the foyer of Spector's home. She had gone home with him earlier that morning after she met Spector at her job as a hostess at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Her most famous acting role was in the 1985 film "Barbarian Queen."

Spector's defense is seeking to show Clarkson shot herself out of despair over her career and personal life.

Independent film producer Greg H. Sims took that stand Tuesday and said Clarkson tearfully lamented the state of her life and career at a party he hosted just five days before her death.

Sims said he had known Clarkson as a fun-loving person until that night, when she drank too much and became increasingly distraught.

"She was reaching a certain level of sadness, hitting a wall in her personal life," he said.

He said he was concerned enough to suggest therapy to Clarkson.

Also on Tuesday, the judge rejected defense bids for dismissal of the case or reduction of the charge from murder to manslaughter.

Spector, 67, was a top producer of hit records decades ago and was famous for his "wall of sound" recording technique.