Two years after the death of music producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector, a controversial bid is underway to clear his name.
Widely hailed as a musical genius for his work with The Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner and The Beatles, Spector spent his final years in prison after being convicted of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
The 40-year-old was shot and killed in February 2003 at Spector’s sprawling California mansion, known as Pyrenees Castle, in an incident that shocked Hollywood and beyond.
Specter – Who Died in prison at age 81 after contracting COVID. – always maintained his innocence, claiming that Clarkson “kissed the gun” and shot himself on his property.
According to the directors of a new Sky documentary, it’s a version of events that the producer’s daughter still believes to be true.
The four-part series delves into the lives of Spector and Clarkson and examines the infamous murders at her home.
Nicole Spector agreed to be interviewed for the program, claiming that her father was “easy prey” for the prosecution, and that evidence heard during his trial made it “immediately clear He couldn’t pull 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’ll ever change her mind on that.”
Joyce says Nicole remains “angry” and “devastated” that her father spent more than a decade behind bars for a crime she believes he did not commit.
And Spector’s daughter is “trying to get the Innocence Project (which works to find people wrongly convicted) to withdraw from the case and exonerate her father,” according to the documentary maker.
Reviewing the evidence
During Spector’s first trial – which ended with a hung jury – and the subsequent retrial, when he was convicted of murder, defense lawyers argued that there was “no physical evidence”. that Spector pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Clarkson;
“There were no fingerprints found (on the gun). There was no DNA on the gun. There was no gunshot residue on it,” Spector’s trial attorney Linda Kennybaden says in the documentary. She also highlights the apparent lack of blood on the white jacket Spector was wearing the night of Clarkson’s death.
Don Argot, who co-directed the documentary with Joyce, says the pair “kept an open mind” about Specter’s sentence as they pored over transcripts, documents and video evidence shown at his trial.
But both filmmakers believe the jury’s verdict in Specter’s retrial was correct.
“I think it’s ridiculous to think that (Lana Clarkson) walked into a stranger’s house, rummaged through (Spector’s) things, got a gun and shot herself in the face,” Joyce says.
“We looked at the forensic evidence and it did not exonerate Phil Spector.
“(Nicole) will hold on to what she needs to hold on to.
“To us, it’s very clear that Phil Spector did it.”
“I can’t change Nicole’s mind,” Argut added.
“He has his truth and that’s what he stands for. It’s not for me to say it’s wrong or to walk away from it.
“I think she’s having trouble reconciling the handsome man whose father was with her… with portraying him as a murderer. She can’t go there.
“He’s holding on to elements in the investigation that he thinks are the smoking guns that exonerate his father, and they’re right there.”
The Innocence Project said it could not comment on whether he was involved in trying to exonerate Spector, while his daughter Nicole also declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.
‘B movie actress’ label
As well as exploring the murder itself, the documentary examines media coverage of Clarkson at the time of her death, repeatedly referring to her as a “B-movie actress”.
She had a string of film and television credits, appearing in the 1980 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High and opposite David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider.
When she first met Spector the night she was killed, Clarkson was working as a hostess at the House of Blues club on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip.
Joyce says the description of Clarkson as a “B-movie actress” was “shorthand for disposable”.
“Putting a moniker like ‘B-movie actress’ in front of her name somehow suggests that she was desperate, that she was coming to him, that she was asking for him,” says the director. say
“It’s a very quick way to paint a narrative about someone.
“It was important to us to make sure that Lana wasn’t just a footnote in Phil Spector’s story.
“We wanted him to be a fully physical character.”
Clarkson’s mother Donna is interviewed in the documentary but Joyce admits she had “considerable reservations” about taking part.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to see the upside of participating in something like this,” she says.
“They’re talking about the most painful thing that’s ever happened to them.
“And they’re setting themselves up for disappointment and ridicule. It’s ripping open old wounds.
“It was important to us that she understood that we really wanted to portray (Lana) as a real character and not a footnote in Phil Spector’s story.
“It took some convincing but eventually he trusted us and I think we did well with him.”
How Phil Spector Was Convicted of Lana Clarkson’s Murder
- Phil Spector met a friend for dinner in Los Angeles on the evening of February 2, 2003, where multiple witnesses reported that he had been drinking heavily.
- Later that evening, he took a waitress to the House of Blues on LA’s Sunset Strip where he was introduced to actress Lana Clarkson, who was working as a hostess at the venue.
- Spector invited Clarkson to his mansion in Alhambra, California, and the couple was driven there by his chauffeur Adriano D’Souza.
- In the early hours of February 3, 2003, Mr D’Souza said he heard commotion from inside Spector’s property and the producer opened the door with a gun in hand and said: ‘I think my boss has killed someone.’
- Police officers arrived and found Ms Clarkson’s body slumped in a chair with a gunshot wound to the mouth.
- Spector was arrested and initially told police the ‘gun went off by accident’, before later saying Ms Clarkson had killed herself.
- Spector’s televised trial began in March 2007, but the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
- A retrial – which was not televised – began in October 2008 and resulted in Spector being found guilty of murder. He was jailed in May 2009 for a minimum of 19 years.
‘Musical genius’ who committed ‘heinous crime’
Some of the media coverage surrounding Spector’s death at the time was criticized, with the BBC apologizing for a headline that described the convicted murderer as “talented but flawed”.
Joyce says in the documentary that “a lot of people are probably angry with us for recognizing their musical talent”.
“He was a murderer, he committed a heinous crime. He abused women for decades. That is absolutely true,” says the director.
“He was also a musical genius. One doesn’t negate the other, but you can’t really reconcile the two.”
Spector was just 17 when he had a top 10 hit in the US, performing with the Teddy Bears on their song To Know Him Is To Love Him.
He was however best known for his role as a producer, working with some of music’s biggest stars and creating his “wall of sound” recording technique, with its dense, layered effect. .
A millionaire by age 21, Spector produced hits for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, Cher, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles, producing 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, holds the record for the most American airplay of the 20th century.
Asked if it is possible to listen to Spector’s music now without thinking about his murder, Joyce says: “It’s a difficult question – how do you separate the art from the artist?
“Can you separate the art from the artist? That’s not a question we have a clear answer to. Everyone’s line is different.
“I think it’s still easy for people to listen to Phil Spector’s music because he wasn’t the singer – he was the man 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 killed someone and you can’t separate that.
“There is no clear answer and I think everyone has their own line.
“Don’t we watch movies produced by Harvey Weinstein because of this monster? Everyone’s line is going to be different.”
Specter is now available to watch on Sky Documentaries and the streaming service.
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