Coroner Says Homicide; Phil Spector's Lawyers See Suicide

They point to gunshot residue found on Lana Clarkson's hands.

Phil Spector's lawyers will use the coroner's report on Lana Clarkson to argue the actress shot herself in the producer's mansion, even though it concludes the death was homicide.

Leslie Abramson and Marcia Morrissey, who recently replaced Robert Shapiro, are focusing their defense on findings of gunshot residue on Clarkson's hands and evidence that she was shot with the gun inside her mouth.

The report states Clarkson "may have discharged a firearm or had [her] hands otherwise in an environment of gunshot residue."

Sandi Gibbons, a spokesperson for the district attorney, said she believes the latter part of that sentence to be the case.

"Any time a gun is fired there is a cloud of residue that emits from that weapon that covers a three-foot radius," Gibbons said Friday. "She could have had her hands on her lap when the gunshot went off and residue would have been on her hands. There was residue on Spector's hands. He also had blood on his hands."

Neither Abramson nor Morrissey were available for comment Friday (May 7), but the attorneys have said the blood and residue on Spector came from the producer rolling on the ground after police shot him with a Taser gun.

"If that was the case, it would not explain her blood on his jacket, which was upstairs, which he was not wearing when he was Tasered," Gibbons argued. "There was her blood on a door handle from when Spector went to call the limo driver. There's blood on the banister leading upstairs. There's a bloody rag upstairs. We believe he took the gun upstairs, wiped it off, and then took it back and placed it on her left side. And she's right-handed.

"There's a lot of evidence in the autopsy report, and for a jury to make a determination, they need to hear everything, not just a piece of this, a piece of that," Gibbons added. "We have known about this report from the start. This did not deter us from filing a case."

The coroner's report, based on forensic analysis and law enforcement reports, was prepared on February 7, 2003, four days after the shooting (see "Producer Phil Spector Arrested In Connection With Slaying").

It was Spector's lawyers who released the report Thursday, after the coroner had refused media requests to see it.

"There is certainly no justice in maintaining this secrecy in the light of Mr. Spector's being charged with murder," Abramson and Morrissey said in a letter explaining their decision to release the report.

Also included in the coroner's findings are autopsy drawings that show Clarkson had a broken acrylic fingernail on her right thumb, which the defense is expected to argue came from firing the gun. The lengthy report also showed Clarkson had alcohol and Vicodin in her system.

The coroner's conclusion of homicide is based on evidence that Spector had possession of the gun when it was discharged and that Clarkson showed no signs of being suicidal and there was no suicide note.

Gibbons said the prosecution will also present evidence other than the report, including reports of other incidents where Spector pointed guns at women.

Spector, who was not charged until November, is free on $1 million bail (see "Producer Phil Spector Charged With Murder").

In his only interview since his arrest, the creator of the legendary "wall of sound" style used by '60s soul groups like the Righteous Brothers said Clarkson shot herself hours after they met for the first time (see "Phil Spector Says Slain Actress 'Kissed The Gun' Before Killing Herself").

Lawyers for both sides were in court Friday to determine the schedule of the case. Abramson is known for her involvement in the Menendez brothers' murder trial.