Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Phil Spector Retrial: Day Thirty-four

January 28th, 2009

Defense Witnesses: #2 Stuart James (forensic scientist and blood spatter analysis expert; currently under first cross examination)

Accredited Press inside the courtroom: Harriet Ryan of the Los Angeles Times; Bloomberg News for a short time in the afternoon; another possible gentleman, unconfirmed.

The Battle of the Blood Spatter Analysis Experts

Quite a bit happened today and I won't be able to write out a detailed report tonight. I filled up an entire side of my steno pad today. I will give a summary as best I can since I have some sewing orders I have to work on tonight. I do not know if I will be able to do a detailed entry on today's events later.

Truc is back in court today and if I overheard correctly, Fidler inquired at one point today if she was keeping a cup of hot tea at her table for her throat. She's wearing a dress I think I've seen before but I've never described to you. It's jet black, slim-lined and made of a flimsy, light weight material. The upper part of the dress, front and back is made of these 2" wide pleats. It's got a standard shirt type collar, like it might have buttons under the pleats down the front and a matching fabric belt that Truc has tied in a bow in front. The sleeves are three-quarter, and the dress has pockets because at one point, I saw her put her hands in her pockets. It looks lovely on her.

There were several supporters for Spector coming to court today. One of the early arrivals was an older black couple. I find out that the balding man is Bill Gardner "Rhapsody in Black," a DJ specializing in R&B from the 40's, 50's and 60's. Mr. Gardner can be heard on When they arrived they introduced themselves to Rachelle and at one of the breaks the DJ shook Spector's hand.

The first hour and a half of court is taken up with arguments by the prosecution that the defense violated discovery rules by presenting to the prosecution six days ago, a power point presentation that Stuart James would use in his direct testimony (and not 30 days in advance as required by law). Inside the presentation are satellite spatter demonstrations that he did with a chair he purchased, as well as a ladies wool jacket. James testified outside the presence of the jury under questioning by Alan Jackson that it was his own idea to purchase the chair, the jacket and conduct these tests; Weinberg did not suggest that he do this. He also testified that the experiments were not meant to recreate the events of February 2003, but to be teaching/demonstration information for the jury only.

Right. I understand that he is an expert and under oath, but I found this very hard to believe. Judge Fidler ultimately ruled that the experiment demonstrations within the power point could be shown to the jury and that there were no discovery violations. This ruling really puzzled me. My guess would be that since AJ and Truc had a copy of the CD for six days, (and the amended version that took out some images and added more text from only two days ago) maybe Fidler felt they had plenty of time to review it. Maybe he felt that this did not seriously hamper or damage the prosecution's case. Who knows. But presenting this to the prosecution in the time that the defense did (according to James, he gave the defense a copy in early January) to me (my opinion only) smacks of the same tactics Weinberg has used with Dr. Seiden's testimony and holding back the discovery on that.

Later, under cross examination, James revealed that before he had the idea to perform these tests, his associate Mr. Pex had performed some similar spatter tests with a different jacket but the jacket was not made of 100% wool. James also revealed that Weinberg, Pex and James had all had a meeting together between the time that Pex did his earlier tests, and James did his later ones.

After the discovery inquiry, at 10:49 am, the courtroom is given a five minute break before testimony will start before the jury. At the defense table, I see that Spector is holding something in his left hand, and looking at it intently. It looks like a large clam-shell type compact. It's a mirror! Spector's hands are very small, so it's hard to tell, but this thing looks like it's about 5 inches by 6 inches. That's a pretty big clam shell mirror if you ask me. I see him take his right hand and touch either the lapel of his jacket, or his collar near his tie. It seems like he stares into this mirror for about a minute or more.

10:52 am: The jury is called and court starts a few minutes later. Sheriff Williams is in the bailiff box and there is a new sheriff sitting in the back row where Williams usually sits. The first half hour is taken up with James's CV. James states that he has written books, given lectures as well as teach individuals blood spatter analysis techniques. He is also a member of several forensic expert examiner's associations. In one group he has been accepted as a "fellow" (I'm assuming that's a prestigious designation) and there are only 12 other "fellows" in the organization. He handles about fifty cases a year. (I calculate that would come out to about a case a week.) The power point presentation is used to educate the jury on blood spatter and it's analysis.

During the afternoon session, the defense brought into the courtroom, the chair Lana Clarkson died in and pointed out various areas on the chair for James to opine on the nature and origin of the blood stains. The chair was placed in the well in front of the jury box, near the podium. One of the first things I noticed is, that up close, the chair is much lower to the ground than it appears in the photographs. The other thing I noticed was all the blood stains had faded to various shades of black. Mrs. Clarkson, who has sat in the front row just a little to the right of the podium area during the first and second trial, was in direct line of sight of the chair her daughter died in. She was no more than six feet from it. Throughout the time she had to sit there with that chair in front of her, up close, I saw her hold a kerchief up to her nose and heard her silently sob. That chair affected her and it affected me, too. From where I'm sitting, I try to see the spatter on the inside arm of the chair as it's manipulated and turned around. I can't. It's either lower than my line of sight of it's too small for me to see from where I'm sitting in the second bench row.

When the chair was brought in and Weinberg was asking James about specific stains on the chair, all the jurors in the back row stood up so they could see. You could tell the jurors were very interested in that chair. (When AJ was asking James questions on cross about stains on the chair, they did the same thing.)

Stuart James refuted several of Dr. Herold's conclusions about the blood spatter on Spector's white wool ladies jacket, the chair, the slip dress, Lana's wrists and hands as well as the luminol testing performed by Steve Renteria.

James testified he can't determine if the blood stains on Spector's white ladies wool jacket are impact or satellite spatter stains or a combination of both. He also testified that the blood stain on the folded edge of Spector's right jacket cuff was in his expert opinion a contact stain and not impact spatter. He also testified that the blood stain on the supposed "back side" of the white wool jacket had to have been facing a spatter event. James testifies that he doesn't agree that 1 millimeter stains could be labeled "mist like." In his expert opinion, 1 millimeter stains are associated with a beating.

James testified that the blood on the inner portion of the right arm of the chair was caused by satellite blood spatter (blood dripping into blood; possibly from the blood flow on the jacket or the purse strap) and not the back spatter coming from Lana Clarkson's mouth. James testified that according to the directional red arrows placed by Dr. Herold, the spatter on Lana's dress has many directions, further supporting his contention that some of this spatter is satellite spatter and not all back spatter from the gunshot wound. James testified that a directional spatter stain on Lana's left hand could not have happened if Lana was holding her hands in a specific position.

James testifies that he can not say where Lana's head was positioned with any certainty. He will only stated that it was somewhere within a 90 degree arc from front center. James states that from the blood stain analysis, he can't determine where Lana was positioned when she was shot. He could not determine whether Lana was slumped or sitting up.

When asked about the blood smear on Lana's left fatty thumb pad, and if it could be from something like a gun placed against the hand, James answers, "Well, that's speculation. As a scientist, I can't get into that." When James is asked if he could make a blood stain pattern analysis based on something somebody told him he answers, "I couldn't do that. It goes against everything that [we're trained to do]."

There was more detail testimony of course, but I'm trying to get this entry up tonight.

Under cross examination by Alan Jackson, Stuart James states that he charges $250.00 an hour. He billed approximately $35,000 for his services in the first trial and he's billed the defense team in this trial through November of 2008, approximately $18,000. He expects that he will bill the team for his services from November to present (that includes the experiments and testing and power point presentation as well as testifying on the stand) something in the range of another ten or twenty thousand dollars.

There was a bit more that AJ crossed James on before court recessed for the day and I hope to add to that, later. AJ also confiscated the ladies beige wool jacket James purchased for his experiments and entered it into evidence as a people's next in order #233.

During the afternoon session, a tall, jet black haired handsome man entered with a baseball cap on that the bailiff's told him he had to remove. At the end of the court day, Rachelle hugged this man and thanked him for coming. Later, leaving court for the day I was with him and two others in the elevator. He was chatting with Tawni Tyndall (who arrived in the afternoon all dressed up in a suit and her hair in a French twist) and Weinberg's AV clerk, Mr. Smith. From the conversation in the elevator, it appears he works with Tawni as a private investigator. After court was over, Weinberg hugged and kissed a young woman who came to court and sat with Rachelle and the short, older blond woman I've seen many times. It appears the short woman is Weinberg's wife (I understand she is an attorney) and the attractive young woman is his daughter. So some of the people coming to court are not necessarily personal friends of Spector and Rachelle's but more people who work for Spector's defense.

Court continues tomorrow with the cross examination of James by Alan Jackson.

Correction: In prior entries, I've identified Allan Parachini as head of the Public Information Office (PIO). He is the spokesperson for the LA County Superior Court. He works for the court and does not work for the county government. I apologize for any confusion in other entries and comments.

Almost forgot. The DA's investigator has inspected the fountain but Alan told the court that he has not been able to speak to him yet. Hopefully, he will have that issue cleared up for the court this evening. This issue need to be resolved because the Sheriff's Dept. needs to schedule and arrange the site visit, tentatively scheduled for February 5th. I don't know the time. I don't believe it's been fixed yet. I also will add that before the afternoon session, there was a short discussion with the Judge outside the presence of the jury.

It was a bit of a spat that Weinberg initiates. Weinberg is concerned that the prosecution is purposefully disrupting the defense's case by waiting for the last moment to bring up these discovery violations. He's concerned that the prosecution will continue to do this. Weinberg asks that if hearings are needed, rather than take up the jury's time, another time could be found to bring these issues to the court.

Alan Jackson replies, "Well, sure. Tit for tat. This gets so childish. [...] I agree that another time should be (scheduled). [...] If you stop giving me stuff late, I'll stop raising it late."

Also, I asked Detective Tomlin at the end of the day if he gets to take the chair home with him and he said, "Yes."


Anonymous said...

Very interesting and informative post. It is always difficult to judge how a jury will react to an expert being paid so much money, but he sounds credible, and from what you have reported so far it sounds like the prosecution has not done any damage to him on cross.

BTW, what impression did you get from the power point presentation?

Informative or too slick?

How did the jury react to it?

Anonymous said...

The expert witness thing is really something. I went to an insurance trial where a doctor goes around telling how mold can kill you. This was so these people could collect umpteen bucks from the ins. company over a leak in the basement. He has made a huge business out of this mold stuff, and his charge to testify was very comparable if not more than what the blood spatter guy charges. Enough for most of us to live well for a year! The Badens make a living at it too. It's a whole cottage industry!

The thing about the mirror. What a great detail for you to put in. What an image!

I think Fidler let that in because he is bending over backward not to give cause for a mistrial. If that happens, then even if Spector is convicted, there will be more waste of the court's time, that is if Spector lives long enough. Sometimes he looks very fit though except for his stoned stare and the tremors. Do you think he's had plastic surgery and a face lift?

Thanks again Sprocket for all your efforts and making it so interesting for us.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 1/28@11:33PM:

“Do you think he's had plastic surgery and a face lift?”

Try plastic surgeries and face lifts, so many in fact that his face is deformed.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 11:19 pm:
All that testimony about satellite spatter and that what's on the dress and the chair arm is satellite, the problem is, there's not a source that could have had enough velocity to create it. Her heart was no longer pumping. She was slumped back, and not forward. More cross is coming; this was just the beginning.

Anon @ 11:33 pm:
Once Jackson made his objection to the witness's power point presentation and the accusation of the discovery violation, Weinberg did as he usually does when confronted with discovery violations, he deflects the blame by accusing the prosecution of the same thing. Weinberg stood up and said, something to the effect of, I thought I would be polite and not complain about everything the prosecution did in violation. Then he brings up Dr. Herold's testimony, and a litany of things she said that that were not in any notes, or mentioned in the first trial. Weinberg then said to the judge, IF I'm ruled against, then I want all of those items just mentioned that Dr. Herold testified to striken from the record! His voice was a bit loud and his tone was irritated.

Now, it has to be something quite agreegous (sp?) for a judge to go back, and strike testimony. It's rarely done when there are other remedies, such as give the prosecution more time to review the discovery.

What I think is more likely, the judge knows the case, he knows the evidence and he feels that the prosecution "has what it has" to prosecute the case.

Judge Fidler asked the prosecution if the last minute changes to the DVD where photos were removed and text was added was a significant change from when he received the CD/DVD six days ago. AJ replied that it was not. On that response, as well as the witnesses testimony outside the presence of the jury that these experiments were NOT intended to replicate the crime, Fidler ruled. Fidler also stated that he was "sure" that one of AJ's first questions on cross (if it was not brought out on direct) would be to clear up this issue that the demonstrations were not meant to replicate the scene. With that thought process, Fidler went forward and did not rule against the defense and stated the experiments could be shown to the jurors.

Nevertheless, to me it was a clear example of Weinberg waiting until the last minute to turn something over. Weinberg is a very good at his craft. There's no question about that.

Logan said...

Thank you for awnsering my question about Phil Spector's hair. I felt very sorry for Lana's mom for having to sit there and stare at that chair.

the mirror thing made me chuckle.

Steve said...

Weinberg's courtroom antics in this case remind me of something I heard quite a few years ago about defense attorney trial tactics. It goes something like this: If you have a strong case, you pound on the facts. If you have a loser case, you pound on the table. All of Weinberg's discovery stall tactics and weak attempts to confuse the jury by spending an inordinate amount of time on meaningless minutiae are nothing more than an advanced state of table-pounding. As you pointed out, he is very good at his craft. But that's what crafty lawyers are supposed to do.