Coroner Says Spector Case A Homicide

In the fifth week of the Phil Spector murder trial, the court aimed to get down to the nitty-gritty of the case as it concentrated on the coroner’s report.

Dr. Louis Pena, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy of actress Lana Clarkson, testified "this is a homicide" May 29th.

Pena determined this based on evidence of bruises on Clarkson’s right arm, hand and tongue after she was shot in the mouth in February 2003 at the producer’s mansion.

"The bruise is very unique and is consistent with blunt-force trauma. Something struck the tongue," Pena said.

The defense team claims Spector, 67, is innocent and that the actress, 40, committed suicide by placing the gun in her own mouth and pulling the trigger.

The coroner cast doubt on the suicide claim after he described Clarkson as a "hopeful person" without a history of depression or suicide. Although she was taking two drugs normally prescribed for depression, Pena said Clarkson’s neurologist had prescribed them for her chronic headaches.

Additional evidence was cited to further establish Clarkson didn’t take her own life, including the fact that the actress died with a purse on her shoulder in a stranger’s home – not typical of a person committing suicide.

Evidence suggested Spector had placed the gun that fatally shot Clarkson in his pocket. Pena said the gun had been wiped and that a large amount of Clarkson’s blood was found in the left pocket of Spector’s pants.

Spector’s chauffeur previously testified that his boss exited his mansion and walked up to him with the gun in his bloody hands, saying, "I think I killed somebody."

Attorney Christopher Plourd aimed to show the jury that Pena wasn’t a totally credible witness, pointing out the coroner relied heavily on the work of others in analyzing the forensic evidence and declaring the case a homicide.

Pena admitted that he is not an expert in gunshot residue or blood splatter and that he consulted textbooks to reach his conclusions, including one written by a defense expert, Dr. Werner Spitz, who sat in court.