Gunshot Residue Revisited
Goodall and Hudack
The key testimony heard by jurors on February 19th was about the effect of chronic drug use on the mind - specifically the minds of the two key prosecution witnesses on whose claims the solicitation counts were based, Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton and Gary McLarty. But before defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach presented his expert witness on methamphetamine-induced insanity, jurors heard from two additional witnesses who continued to undermine the theory of the prosecution.
Daryn Goodall, Blake's former personal assistant and also a movie set decorator, told the court that Blake had some health problems that caused in to vomit frequently. And Pamela Hudack, an actress who had a relationship with Blake that lasted about two months, testified that she continued to have a "dear, deep friendship" with the actor and said that she had met Bonny Lee Bakley twice.
Hudack, who lived for a time in the same guest quarters Bakley inhabited at the time of her death, recalled the first of the two meetings with the shooting victim. That was in late 1999, she said, when she accompanied Blake and Bakley to the office of a gyecologist who subsequently confirmed Bakley's pregnancy.
Hudack said she felt "uncomfortable" in the company of Bakley. She recalled Bakley carrying on on a "scattered" conversation with "stilted" speech. "She seemed very interested in talking about celebrities she knew," Hudak said, and boasted that she had had sexual relations with Dean Martin, Christian Brando and others.
Hudack also testified that she cared for baby Rosie one day at Blake's request, and told jurors she was "concerned" about the poor health of the baby. Rosie "did not seem well," said Hudack, and apparently sufferred from dehydration as well as a "severe diaper rash" and a "bad scalp condition."
Both Hudack and Goodall testified that it was normal for Blake to have large amounts of cash in his house, and Hudack recalled seeing three-inch rolls of hundred-dollar bills as well as large envelopes filled with money in the home.
Dr. Ronald Siegel
Next, the defense called to the witness stand Dr. Ronald Siegel, a psychopharmacologist on the research staff at the UCLA Medical School, who explained to the court the long-term consequences of drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Seigel has done approximately 30 years of study into the effects of hard drugs on the human brain. He has published two books and hundreds of articles on the subject and is considered the nation's premiere expert.
In systematic fashion, Siegel explained how short-term cocaine use causes the user to perceive flashes of light in his peripheral vision. Among those whose use of the drug continues over the long term, the flashes of light start to become "real" to the user, leading to the perception that "those aren't little flashing lights — those are satellites that are tracking me."
Both cocaine and meth can lead long-time users to experience false beliefs and delusions, Siegel told the court. In fact, he said, Hambleton's hallucinations and fears of "tree people" were "typical" among habitual users of both meth and cocaine. "In the hills of Los Angeles, we have people going out every night shooting at bush people," the doctor said.
Seigel also described to jurors how these drugs, not usually considered hallucinogens, can actually cause the heavy user to hallucinate. He said that they create such intense stimulation in the brain that what the mind imagines is projected onto reality. False beliefs or fears become real in the minds of people so affected, he said. This can lead to a variety of deviant behaviors, he said, including paranoia.
According to Siegel, the brain is so badly injured by continual drug consumption that chronic abusers develop a condition similar to schizophrenic psychosis.
Seigel's testimony appeared to delight jurors, as he kept them interested with stories about his research on primates. During one experiment, he said, he persuaded some lab monkeys to chew cocaine-laced gum by sitting in a monkey cage and chewing some himself.
He also explained how the mind on drugs processes information. While a person may actually correctly perceive something he hears while high on one of these substances, the mind still may not store that information properly for accurate recall at a later date. In other words, users may remember events and conversations in ways that clash with the reality of what they saw or heard at the time.
During cross-exaination, Assistant District Attorney Shellie Samuels raised the matter of drug use on the part of witnesses like Cole McLarty, Keith Seals, and Donna Sharon. "So, how do you know who to believe?" Samuels asked.
Seigel responded that he couldn't even guess at the veracity of any witness without examining that witness personally. But he said it was virtually impossible to know how much truth, if any, could be found in stories told by chronic users.
"I'm glad I'm not sitting on the jury," Seigel told the prosecutor. "They have to decide that. I can't."