Two months into the trial for Lana Clarkson’s 2003 murder, we’ve learned a lot about famed music producer Phil Spector. He likes strange wigs, living in a castle and pointing firearms at women But does he also wash his hands in a toilet?
That question popped into testimony on Thursday, as prosecutor Alan Jackson cross-examined the defense’s first witness, forensic pathologist Vincent DiMaio. While there is no evidence that Spector ever washed his hands after a gunshot wound killed Clarkson — her blood wasn’t found in the sink’s pipes — a bloody rag was found next to an open toilet bowl. This led the prosecution to theorize that Spector washed blood and gunshot residue off his hands using the john. DiMaio argued that humans are creatures of habit, and that normal people wash their hands in a sink, but it’s been established that toilet water is cleaner than drinking fountain water, so the prosecution’s claim may not be that far-fetched.
This all sets the stage for the most important witness of the entire trial, forensic pathologist and Court TV star Dr. Henry Lee. Lee has already played a tumultuous role in this trial: He’s been accused of stealing valuable crime scene evidence, an allegation that sent former Spector lawyer Sara Caplan to jail for refusing to discuss Lee’s actions under oath (Lee denies taking the evidence). The prosecution already has a head start on damaging Leeâ€™s credibility with their vocal motions in front of the jury to retrieve the stolen evidence. But Lee is a lovable star, the Dr. Phil of forensic science. Plus, one of Spector’s lawyers is married to Michael Baden, star of HBO’s Autopsy series. Bottom line: The amount of forensic evidence that points to suicide might be insurmountable for the prosecution to disprove reasonable doubt. This is what the defense is hoping for, as thus far, the prosecution has dominated the trial.
Earlier in the trial, the prosecution was uncharacteristically allowed to question four women who all claimed Spector pointed guns at them when they turned down his sexual advances. Spector’s chauffeur later testified that Spector emerged from his house saying “I think I killed somebody.” Other testimony, like evidence regarding the distance blood spatter can travel and the handbag over Clarkson’s shoulder, pointed to murder and not suicide. Most telling of all was the fact that Lana Clarkson was not depressed, and people who aren’t depressed don’t often kill themselves. There was also the claim that most women kill themselves by overdosing on over-the-counters while men opt for the more theatrical self-inflicted gunshot wound (or hanging themselves or jumping from somewhere high to somewhere hard).
All this evidence has been damaging for Spector, tipping the scales so far toward a guilty verdict that the defense really needs a TKO by Henry Lee just to recover. Will Lee’s testimony save Phil Spector? Can Alan Jackson expose Lee as a biased witness as he did with Vincent DiMaio? Can Phil Spector make it through an entire day of court without falling asleep in his chair? We’ll find out July 9, when court resumes after its long Independence Day break.