The trial of music producer Phil Spector in Los Angeles., now coming to an end, may hinge on forensic evidence, says the Los Angeles Times. The defense’s science experts have been fiercely questioned about their motives, objectivity, and competence. They have disclosed their pay – $5,000 a day in one case – and, in describing their scientific findings, illustrated the subjectivity underlying their judgments. Spector is charged with murder in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson at his mansion on Feb. 3, 2003. Spector’s defense team says the 40-year-old actress, distressed by her waning career, her judgment impaired by alcohol and drug use, made a spontaneous decision to shoot herself in his home.
The Spector case is unfolding during growing national scrutiny of forensic science. With hundreds of convictions nationwide overturned by DNA evidence, the reliability of forensic science is the subject of studies and conferences by bodies including the National Academy of Sciences and the new California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice. “What you don’t see” in forensic science are “the kinds of standards you see in university science. That became really obvious once we started using DNA,” said Case Western University law professor Paul Giannelli, an evidence specialist. “There is a need for elevating the standard of practice,” said Bruce Goldberger, president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a professor at the University of Florida medical school. Funding shortfalls and variations in training are among the problems hampering forensic labs. Spector’s defense has centered on an area of forensics known as bloodstain pattern analysis. His lawyers argue that up to 18 blood spots that sprayed from Clarkson’s wound onto the music recording legend’s white jacket show he was standing too far from the actress to have shot her.