Friday, June 15, 2007

Trial Notes, 5-29-07

I get out of the house way late, and decide to drive to the North Hollywood Red Line station to catch the train. I make great driving time, however, I can't find a parking spot in the lot. The only spaces that are available are for permit parking. Thankfully, a woman stopped me from parking in one of these spaces or I'd have gotten a ticket. I take a chance and park on the street. I make the train I normally would have made to reach downtown by 9:05 am.

I forgot to grab the extra large tote I had packed with a cushion for court. I at least remembered to put a new book in my bag, since I finished my last book on surviving dangerous situations. I will have something to read to pass the time.

9:10 am. I see Dominick and Ciaran sitting together. Two trial watching men (Richard and Ron) who have been attending quite a bit of the trial, say hello to Dominick. Finally, I get into the courtroom at 9:30 am. Lana's family hasn't arrived, and I don't think they will. Dr. Pena, the medical examiner is expected to testify today. I see that Alan Jackson has a whole stack of photos in his hand. Steven says, "it will be Kenney Baden's day today. This is where she earns her air fare."

The bailiff comes over to talk to the Court TV camera operators to tell then, "Fox 11 is on the phone. Fox is not getting a picture." One of the men replies, "It's an optical issue and we have someone working on it." 9:35 am. No judge, no jury. Ah! Now they're called. The defense informs the judge that, "Dr. Spitz and Dr. DiMaio will be here assisting us." Rosen brings up a point about Greg Diamond. A lengthy motion was filed by the defense this morning. Alan Jackson hasn't had a chance to review it. It has to do with two huge notebooks sent to him by Alan Jackson that supposedly he (the medical examiner?) hasn't looked at. The huge binders are about the psychological aspects of the victim. Alan Jackson andRosen temporarily resolve the issue.

Dr. Pena enters the courtroom. Dr's Spitz and DiMiao sit over on right, behind the defense area of the courtroom. Dr. Pena takes the oath. Alan Jackson conducts the direct examination. Louis Pena, forensic pathologist. Dr. Pena goes over what a forensic pathologist does. They determine "Cause of Death" and "Manner of Death." Dr. Pena has a medical degree in pathology. He did his residency inLos Angeles and in West Los Angeles. He testifies that he's board certified in pathology. He's performed over 3,300 autopsies. He's testified approximately 260 times in court.

Q: Is there a difference between "Cause of Death" and "Manner of Death?" (These are often abbreviated as COD and MOD.)

A: Cause of Death is the specific injury. (Dr. Pena gives examples.) If the Manner of Death can not be determined through the autopsy, then I need input. I will investigate from information provided. It's a team effort, putting the information together. Hopefully, from that I can then decide if the death is from natural causes, an accident, a homicide or a suicide.

Dr. Pena testifies that Ms. Clarkson's death is assigned a case number by the medical examiner's office. Coroner's case #2003-00937. Dr. Pena describes how cases are assigned a unique number, and no two cases have the same number. Since the decedent was not known, Dr. Pena went to the death scene around 5:00 pm on Monday afternoon. Dr. Pena explains that when he does go to a death scene, he does tend to remember the circumstances much better. Looking at the body, at the scene, helped him to come to a conclusion about the case.

Dr. Pena discussed with with Jamie Linetmoot, how to best preserve the clothing from purging from Ms. Clarkson's mouth and nose. Dr. Pena states that Ms. Clarkson's head is wrapped in a sheet/towel for transport. When Ms. Clarkson was placed on the examination table, she purged onto the table. Blood and tissue contaminated the right side of Ms. Clarkson's jacket.

Dr. Pena testifies to all the individuals who observed the autopsy. Tomlin, Forneya, Dr. Baden, Barlian Nelson, Jamie Lintemoot, another gentleman and Dr. Sherry. (sp? on the names) Dr. Pena states that it was a courtesy to Dr. Baden for him to be there.

Q: Is it normal for investigators to be there at autopsy?
A: At a homicide, yes, it is.

More photos, close ups of Lana's head are put on the overhead screen. There are three photos. A: As she arrived at the medical examiner's office. B: Photo of Ms. Clarkson after she had been washed off. C: After autopsy. The dentist came down and examined the two fractured upper front teeth. (The look like they are totally gone in the photo.)

Q: Did you have any findings regarding any wounds?
A: Do you want me to start with the head wound?

Dr. Pena states the bullet nicked the top part of the tongue. The bullet hit C1 & C2 and tore apart the spinal cord. The spinal cord was completely severed. Pena shows the jury on himself the trajectory of the bullet. The bullet fractured the base of the skull, hit the dura and ruptured the dura. The bullet lodged into the occiput bone of the skull. (This bone is at the base of the skull.) Dr Pena says, "A gun shot (GS) wound to the head and neck that cause her to die immediately." Up on the screen is an ME's office form with a diagram of the head; it's a side view, showing the trajectory of the bullet. The bullet ended up at the back of the head, still inside the skull. When hitting any hard bone, bullets can change direction. Dr. Pena states that the bullet could have changed direction. The bullet first grazed the top of the tongue. He goes onto to describe a specific type of injury to the very back of the tongue, but I can't read my note to get the correct word. Dr. Pena describes it. "Think of it, like a star burst. It sort of splits the flesh." Dr. Pena goes over more of the descriptions on the ME documentation form #24, where all the tongue injuries are described in detail.

(As I transcribe my notes here, I search my Webster's Medical Dictionary for this word that I can't tell exactly how it's spelled. I think I've found it. Sulcate (sul'kat). Grooved; furrowed; marked by a sulcus or sulci.)

Dr. Pena testifies that sulcate appears in the middle of the tongue. There are bruises by the back of the tongue. These are superficial. There is a bruise on the left side of the tongue. Dr. Pena says that the back of the tongue bruises could be from the bullet hitting the spinal column.

Q: What may have caused the bruise on the left?
A: I sought out opinions from my colleagues, and asked them to review the file.

In Dr. Pena's opinion, the bruise is consistent with a blunt force trauma. That bruise on the left side of the tongue did not occur from the bullet. It is his opinion that it occurred prior to Ms.Clarkson's death. He can't state when it occurred, only that it is recent, and premortem.

The jurors appear transfixed. Some lean in to listen to Dr. Pena. Dr. Pena then goes into explaining "sooting" and "stippling," and that it is burned and unburned powder hitting the skin. The difference is in how far away the end of the gun is from skin/tissue. Dr. Pena identified "psudostippling inside the oral mucosa. The weapon recoiled and hit her two teeth. The inter oral marks are due to those porcelain crowns breaking and shattering."

Q: Is it common for a bullet to shed or split when it hits bone?
A: Yes.

It's now that Alan Jackson goes through the demonstration on the screen, showing that, although the trajectory of the bullet appears to be upwards and toward the back of her skull, this does not tell us what position Ms. Clarkson's neck could have been in. It could have been tilted back. It's very clear from his demonstration up on the screen, that even though the bullet trajectory is fixed from where it exited the gun to where the bullet lodged, there is no way to know what position her head and body were in. The bullet trajectory is slightly upward, towards the back of the skull. But that does not mean that Ms. Clarkson's head was in the upright position when she was killed.

Dr. Pena testifies that Ms. Clarkson's death was immediate. She would have been immediately unconscious. Her body would have gone limp immediately. Dr. Pena now moves on to other injuries he found on Ms.Clarkson's body. There are bruises on the edge of the hand/wrists. There are bruises on either side of the left hand/wrist area, and and another bruise high up on the left forearm.

The court takes it's morning recess, and I get up to stretch my legs and back out.

Back on the record, Beth Karas enters the courtroom. Looking over at the jury, Jurors #8 and #9 joke. I see Jurors # 5 and #6 whisper. Alan Jackson is going over the wrist bruising again with Dr. Pena, who states he looked at these bruises under a microscope. Dr. Pena states that these bruises appeared to be about the same age . In Dr. Pena's opinion, they were recent to her time of death. There was no evidence of inflammation in these bruises. Dr. Pena states that based on the location of the wrist bruises and their age, they are consistent with someone grabbing Ms. Clarkson's wrists. Dr. Pena states he looked at Ms. Clarkson's bruises at the death scene. New images are put up on the overhead screen. These same images are handed to the jurors to look at. They are of Lana's hands at the scene.

Dr. Pena testifies that Steve Dowell did a GSR test for the top of the tongue and from the oral mucosa area, just inside the mouth. He also tested the hands and forearms for GSR. Dr. Pena states that he took blood from Ms. Clarkson's heart and from her femoral artery. (The femoral artery is located in the thigh.) He also took a vial of blood for DNA studies. The blood would be for toxicology studies and for blood alcohol content (BAC) analysis. The draw from the femoral artery is considered more accurate for BAC. The femoral BAC was .12. The heart BAC was .14. Normally, they do a screen that covers illegal drugs, and Dr. Pena also did a screen for "bases," which cover psychological drugs.

There was an over the counter medication in her system: Aleve. There was Vicodin. Both of these were in the low therapeutic ranges of .03-.07. There was no indication of higher levels (above .07) .

Q: Were you able to make a "Cause of Death" determination?
A: Yes. Gun shot wound to head and neck.
Q: Could you make a determination as to "manner of death" just by the autopsy?

A: No, I could not. (snip) The manner of death is homicide. (snip) It was not a typical scene for a suicide. Especially when it was (in the home of ) someone they had never met before. There are some exceptions to that, for example, suicide by cop. I've never had a case where someone just met someone and goes to their home and never been there before and just shoots themselves.

How would she have known that the gun was there in that drawer? I factored in the purse still on the shoulder. ...  There was no evidence to substantiate depression. No diagnosis from a psychotherapist in her medical records. She was taking Paxil and Elavil but these were prescribed by a neurologist for a chronic problem with headaches. The Elavil she tried for a month. The Paxil works in the brain chemistry to help affect the blood vessels and work on headaches. (snip) She had no history of prior idealation or suicide attempts. She had all the medication in the world to commit suicide but she used them as prescribed. (snip) She did not possess or own a firearm.

Q: Based on everything, taking everything into consideration, based on the totality of the circumstances, what is the manner of death?
A: This is a homicide.

And direct examination ends. There is a bit of a hearing now, outside the jury's presence. Wow! It's not Linda Kenney Baden. It's going to be Chris Plourd who does the cross. The Judge and the attorneys banter back and forth a bit here, using "farm analogies," and the phrase, "cow out of the barn" is used. The Judge asks, "Didn't anyone grow up in the city?" Everyone laughs. The arguments continue as to what Plourd can cross Pena on. The Judge finally says that it will be on a "question by question basis, as to what they can ask. They cannot refer directly to inadmissible evidence. They cannot state precisely what might have been said." This is all referring to Spector's self serving statements that Dr. Pena was told, and used to come to his conclusion as to MOD.

Plourd begins his cross of Dr. Pena. He asks Dr. Pena what his specialty is in pathology. Dr. Pena says it's the heart. He's written some articles on it. Plourd holds up a textbook by Spitz and another one by someone else. Dr. Pena says that yes, he has referred to these books, but he also takes into account his experience of those 3,300 autopsies, and what he's seen in the field.

The lunch recess is called, and cross stops for now. Down in the first floor cafeteria, I call home and find out my husband is not feeling well. He injured his ribs on a job a few weeks ago, and they are still bothering him. I take off from court and go home in the hopes that I can work on him and make him feel a bit more comfortable.

One of the things I just remembered from this day. When Plourd asks Dr. Pena about Dr. Spitz's book and Dr. DiMaio, Dr. Pena smiled and waved to them from the witness stand.