January 6th, 2009
#29 Dr. Louis Pena (LA Co. Deputy Coroner; performed the autopsy on Ms. Clarkson; currently under redirect)
Accredited Press inside the courtroom: Harriet Ryan of the Los Angeles Times during the morning session.
It was a short day today, but what a day it was. Not only was Truc wearing one of my favorite outfits (dark gray pantsuit with a very delicate, deep V-neck top with silk like buttons and embroidery), but legally, I think she hit one out of the ball park with her redirect of Dr. Pena.
She makes it clear to the jury that Dr. Pena does not have a bias by asking him how he sees himself. Pena simply responds, "I work for the coroner's office." She also brings out more of Dr. Pena's character on the stand. We learn that even though he's testified hundred's of times, it's the least favorite thing he has to do as part of his job. He tells us that he has anxiety about testifying and that each time he takes the stand it's like the first time.
One thing that is more apparent today is Weinberg's fidgeting. He leans back in his chair (he does this often) and he has this nervous habit of taking his right forefinger and moving it up and down over his lips, almost like he is plucking guitar strings.
One of the brilliant techniques Truc utilized was taking statements from Dr. Di Maio and Dr. Spitz's books, pointing out that these were defense witnesses at the first trial and showing where Dr. Pena's testimony agreed with what these experts said.
10:28 am: Harriet Ryan and Harvey, the Spector supporter with the white hair enter the courtroom within a minute of each other.
Every area that Weinberg attempted to discredit Dr. Pena, Truc clears up.
During the morning break, I hear Spector say a few words to Rachelle. To me, it doesn't sound like Spector had his vocal surgery. When the morning break is over, three jurors, #1, #2 and #17 ask for another notebook.
Not long afterwards, I hear a noise from the defense table. Spector has torn off a sheet of yellow paper from a legal pad with writing on it, looks it over for a moment, then passed it to Weinberg.
One funny moment was when Truc handed Dr. Pena Dr. Di Maio's book Handbook of Forensic Pathology, (apparently a new book) and Dr. Pena, like an excited child said, "Oh I haven't seen this!" Laughter erupted in the court room as he then said, "I'll have to buy this."
Truc goes over Dr. Pena's process of coming to his conclusion of manner of death. "When you spoke to her family, did you know Ms. Clarkson's mother, Donna Clarkson is a psychiatric nurse?" Dr. Pena replied, "I knew there was a specialty. [...] I knew her and her mother were close." And Truc presses on, questioning that Ms. Clarkson stated that her daughter did not have any suicidal idolation or tendencies. Dr. Pena states that there was nothing in the medical record (clinical history) of suicidal ideation either. I see Weinberg chewing on his pen.
Weinberg had brought up the fact that back in '94, Clarkson sought therapy for depression. Truc gets Dr. Pena to explain that all we have is a computer print out of an appointment date and a diagnostic code. There are no detailed therapy reports. Dr. Pena explains that by law, therapists (Ms. Clarkson saw a social worker) are required to shred their (inactive) files after five years. "And that's why we don't know anything else about those records."
Dr. Pena does tell us about the diagnostic code. It's for "adjustment disorder with anxiety." Truc asks, "Anxiety isn't all that unusual is it?" "No," Dr. Pena replies. "In fact, that's what you've been going through, correct?" Truc asks. Dr. Pena replies, "Oh yeah." The courtroom erupts in laughter. Dr. Pena goes onto explain that there is a complicated process the therapist goes through to put a "scale" on the anxiety. "So for me sitting here, I'm probably at a 60. [...] If you're at 100, that's perfect," Dr. Pena states. "What about the judge," Truc asks, and the jurors laugh again. With a smile on his face, Judge Fidler states he's probably at 90. If I'm recalling correctly (it's not in my notes) Dr. Pena stated that the therapist put Ms. Clarkson on the scale at 60.
Truc then goes over the chronological history of his autopsy investigation and what happened at each meeting. She goes over every detail and how his investigation progressed. Dr. Pena testifies that at all the meetings that were held before his autopsy report was finalized, there were no DA's staff present. The first meeting with members of the DA's office didn't happen until October 13th (or 14th), 2003, long after he reached his conclusion of homicide and the report was finalized. Dr. Pena states that the DA's did not have any input with him in rendering his opinion.
Then piece by piece, Truc goes over every item that Dr. Pena factored in to reach his conclusion on MOD. "Did you factor in Mr. De Souza's statement? Did you factor in that Mr. De Souza also said he saw a gun in Spector's hand? Did you factor in that (in his experience) suicide doesn't usually happen in another person's presence?" Dr. Pena adds that he doesn't know of any other case report where someone goes on a date and then shoots herself. :Did you factor in that the purse was on her shoulder?" Dr. Pena goes through his logic process that most people would put a gun to the temple, and that with that purse on her shoulder, it would have been more of a process to put the gun in her mouth verses to her temple. Dr. Pena had already testified that when they see a intra-oral gunshot wounds, it's usually with the gun pointed "feet to head" or, the soft palate (the roof of the mouth). Dr. Pena also states that he factored in the fact that Clarkson went to Spector's home after she found out who he was and in his mind she probably did that to boost her career. To him, that was a hopeful thought process. (When Dr. Pena said this on the stand, Spector's supporter Harverywas shaking his head "no" back and forth very vigorously and Rachelle Short was grinning the entire time.)
Truc asks Dr. Pena if he factored in the bloody rag and the fact that since Clarkson suffered a complete dissection of the spine, she would have been unable to use the rag. Dr. Pena states that he also factored in the information that the gun was wiped down and that there was blood in Spector's pocket. Those two facts were significant items to him. Dr. Pena also factored in Dr. Herold's report that Spector's white jacket was within 2 to 3 feet of the gun going off. Dr. Pena factored in the bruises and their position on her right wrist.
And that's how testimony ended for the day. Truc got a mini review of the prosecution's case of every piece of evidence that goes to show the manner of death was a homicide. It was an almost seamless presentation of the facts of the case.
Court resumes tomorrow at 9:15 am. Lunch will be short, one hour from 12 noon until 1 pm. Then, court resumes and will end at 2:15 pm. I'm not sure if it's a juror that needs the afternoon off or not.
It's my guess that Dr. Pena will still be on the stand for most, if not all of the day tomorrow. As the courtroom emptied, the two camera operators from the first trial stopped in to say hello to Mr. Jackson. They are covering parts of another trial in the building, but it's not "gavel to gavel." Just opening, closings and highlights. I'll try to find out tomorrow which trial.