A hypodermic needle and spoon taken by police from the purse of Cathy Evelyn Smith hours after comedian John Belushi’s death showed traces of heroin and cocaine, a chemist for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office testified Tuesday.
But the witness, Lloyd E. Mahanay, said that he detected the heroin on the needle only after conducting a more sophisticated test a year after Belushi died and eight months after Smith was quoted in the National Enquirer as saying that she repeatedly injected the portly comedian with a mixture of the drugs in the days and hours before his death on March 5, 1982.
Smith, 38, a Canadian-born back-up vocalist, is being prosecuted on a charge of second-degree murder and 13 counts of furnishing heroin and cocaine to Belushi, who was 33 when he died in a $200-a-day bungalow at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.
A preliminary hearing for Smith began Monday in the courtroom of Los Angeles Municipal Judge James F. Nelson, who must decide whether the district attorney’s office has enough evidence to hold Smith for trial.
The issue of exactly what killed Belushi is likely to become important during the hearing, according to attorneys familiar with the case, although no one has yet testified on that subject.
The coroner’s office determined that Belushi died of acute heroin and cocaine intoxication, according to a report released in 1982. At least one medical expert reportedly told the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, which indicted Smith in March, 1983, that Belushi would not have died if he had not been taking heroin in combination with the cocaine. However, another expert is said to have cast doubt on that assertion. The transcript of the grand jury proceeding remains sealed.
Smith’s attorneys, Howard L. Weitzman and Scott S. Furstman, contend that Belushi was responsible for his own death. Furthermore, Furstman said Tuesday, “There is a gap in causation. We don’t have any direct evidence . . . " that Smith administered a fatal injection of drugs.
Mahanay testified that a test he conducted in March, 1982, disclosed only traces of cocaine.
Did Second Test
A year later, at the suggestion of another coroner’s official, Mahanay said he conducted further tests with a more sophisticated instrument that disclosed the presence of both cocaine and heroin, not only on the needle, but in two small containers of white powder found in Belushi’s bungalow.
During cross-examination, Weitzman asked Mahanay if he conducted the second examination after reading an article in the Enquirer in which Smith was quoted as saying that she had injected Belushi with both heroin and cocaine before his death. Mahanay said he was aware of the tabloid article, but did not read it.