Two years after the death of music producer and convicted killer Phil Spector, a controversial campaign to clear his name is understood to be underway.
Spector, widely hailed as a musical genius for his work with the likes of The Justice Brothers, Tina Turner and The Beatles, spent his final days in prison after being convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson year.
The 40-year-old was shot dead in February 2003 at Spector’s California mansion, known as the Pyrenees Castle, an event that caused a stir in Hollywood and beyond.
Spector – who Dies in prison after contracting coronavirus, aged 81 – always maintained his innocence, claiming that Clarkson “kissed the gun” and shot himself.
According to the director of a new Sky documentary, this is the version of events that the producer’s daughter still believes to be true.
The four-part series delves into the lives of Specter and Clarkson, and investigates the notorious murder at his home.
Nicole Spector, who agreed to be interviewed by the show, claimed her father was “easy prey” for prosecutors and that evidence heard at his trial “immediately made it clear that he couldn’t have pulled the trigger”.
“She feels very strongly that Lana took her own life and she believes the forensic evidence supports that,” director Sheena Joyce told Sky News.
“I don’t know if she’s going to change her mind.”
Joyce said Nicole remained “angry” and “depressed” that her father had spent more than a decade in prison for a crime she didn’t think he committed.
According to the documentary’s makers, Spector’s daughter “is trying to get the Innocence Project (dedicated to clearing people who have been wrongly convicted) to support the case and exonerate her father.”
revisiting the evidence
During Spector’s first trial — which ended with a hung jury — and subsequent retrial, when he was found guilty of murder, defense attorneys argued that there was “no physical evidence” that Spector pulled the trigger that killed Clarkson. The trigger of the gun.
“No fingerprints were found (on the gun). There was no DNA on the gun. There were no marks of a gunshot on him,” Spector’s trial attorney, Linda Kenny Baden, told the documentary. She also highlighted the conspicuous lack of blood on the white jacket Specter wore on the night of Clarkson’s death.
Don Argott, who co-directed the documentary with Joyce, said the pair had “an open mind” about Spector’s conviction as they reviewed the transcripts, documents and video evidence presented at Spector’s trial. “.
But both filmmakers believe the jury was correct in Spector’s retrial.
“I think it’s ridiculous that (Lana Clarkson) would walk into a stranger’s house, root for (Spector’s) stuff, find a gun and shoot himself in the face,” Joyce said.
“We did look at the forensic evidence and it does not exonerate Phil Spector.
“[Nicole]will stick to what she needs to stick to.
“It was pretty clear to us that Phil Spector did it.”
“I couldn’t change Nicole’s mind,” Argot added.
“She has her truth, that’s what she clings to. I can’t say it’s wrong or give it up.
“I do think she does have a hard time reconciling her father’s beautiful man … with his portrayal as a murderer. She can’t do that.
“She stands by elements of the investigation that she believes are smoking guns for her father’s innocence, and that’s where she is.”
The Innocence Project said it could not comment on whether it was involved in the attempt to exonerate Spector, while his daughter Nicole also declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.
‘B Movie Actresses’ Tag
In addition to exploring the murder itself, the documentary also examines media coverage at the time of Clarkson’s death, which repeatedly referred to her as a “B-movie actress.”
She has a string of film and television credits, appearing in the 1980s cult film Fast Time at Ridgemont High and starring opposite David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider.
Clarkson was working as hostess at the House of Blues club on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when she first met Spector the night she was killed.
Describing Clarkson as a “B-movie actress” is “one-off shorthand,” Joyce said.
“Putting her name with a nickname like ‘B-movie actress’ somehow shows that she’s desperate, she’s got it coming, she’s asking for trouble,” the director said.
“It’s a really quick way to paint someone’s story.
“It was important to us to make sure Lana wasn’t just a footnote in Phil Spector’s story.
“We want her to be a fully fleshed out character.”
Clarkson’s mother, Donna, was interviewed for the documentary, but Joyce admitted she had “quite a few reservations” about getting involved.
“It’s sometimes difficult for people to see the benefits of being involved in these kinds of activities,” she said.
“They were talking about the most painful things that happened to them.
“They’ve allowed themselves to be let down and ridiculed. It’s opening old wounds.
“It was important to us that she understood that we really wanted to make (Lana) a real character and not just a footnote in Phil Spector’s story.
“It took some convincing, but in the end she trusted us and I do feel we did a good job with her.”
How Phil Spector Was Convicted of Lana Clarkson’s Murder
- On the night of February 2, 2003, Phil Spector was having dinner with a friend in Los Angeles when multiple witnesses said he was drinking heavily.
- Later that evening, he took a waitress to the House of Blues on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard, where he was introduced to actress Lana Clarkson, the hostess of the venue.
- Spector invited Clarkson to his mansion in the Alhambra, California, and the two were driven there by his chauffeur, Adriano de Sousa.
- In the early hours of February 3, 2003, Mr. De Souza said he heard noises in Spector’s house and the producer opened the door with a gun in his hand and said, “I think I killed someone.”
- Officers arrived to find Ms Clarkson’s body slumped on a chair with a gunshot wound to her mouth.
- After his arrest, Spector initially told police “the gun accidentally went off” and later said Ms Clarkson had committed suicide.
- Spector’s televised trial began in March 2007, but the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
- A retrial, which began in October 2008 but was not televised, resulted in Spector being found guilty of murder. He was sentenced in May 2009 to a minimum of 19 years in prison.
‘Music genius’ who committed ‘heinous crime’
Some media coverage surrounding Spector’s death was criticized at the time, with the BBC apologizing for a headline that described the convicted killer as “talented but flawed”.
Joyce said in the documentary that “many people were probably not happy that we acknowledged his musical genius”.
“He was a murderer, he committed heinous crimes. He abused women for decades. It’s absolutely true,” the director said.
“He’s also a musical genius. One can’t negate the other, but you can’t really reconcile the two.”
Spector was only 17 years old when he entered the top 10 in the US, performing their song “Know him is to love him” with a teddy bear.
However, he is best known for his role as a producer, collaborating with some of the music industry’s biggest stars and creating his “wall of sound” recording techniques with dense, layered effects.
A millionaire at age 21, Spector produced hits for Ike and Tina Turner, The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, Cher, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles, among others, and produced the band’s final album, Let It Be. He also worked with John Lennon on Imagine.
The 1965 song You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, co-written by Spector, is listed as the most played record of the 20th century in the United States.
Asked whether it is now possible to listen to Spector’s music without thinking about his murder, Joyce said: “That’s a hard question to answer – how do you separate art from artist ?
“Can you separate the art from the artist? We don’t have a definitive answer to that question. Everyone’s line is different.”
“I think it’s easier for people to keep listening to Phil Spector’s music because he’s not a singer—he’s behind the scenes.
“I can’t imagine Christmas without his Christmas album.
“That being said, while he was a talented music producer, he abused women and murdered someone, you can’t take that apart.
“There is no clear answer and I think everyone has their own line.
“Aren’t we watching movies that Harvey Weinstein makes because he’s a monster? Everyone’s lines are going to be different.”
Spector is now available on the Sky documentary and streaming service.