A controversial attempt to clear Phil Spector’s name, two years after his death as a music producer and convicted murderer, is believed to be underway.
Spector is widely regarded as a musical genius, largely for his work with Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers and The Beatles. Spector spent his last years in prison after he was convicted of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
In February 2003, Spector, a sprawling California mansion known as the Pyrenees castle, shot the 40-year old victim to death. The incident caused shockwaves across Hollywood and beyond.
Spector was sentenced to death in prison at the age of 81 for COVID . He had been a victim of COVID and he always maintained his innocence. Clarkson claimed that Clarkson had “kissed his gun” and she had shot himself at his property.
According to Sky directors, it is still a version of events the producer’s daughter believes to be true.
This four-part series explores the lives of Clarkson and Spector, and the notorious murder at Clarkson’s home.
Nicole Spector was willing to interview for the program. She claims that her father was “easy prey” by the prosecutors. The evidence at his trial made it clear that he could not have pulled the trigger.
Sheena Joyce, director of Sky News, says that she feels strongly that Lana took her life. She believes that the forensic evidence supports this belief.
“I don’t know if she will ever change her mind about that.”
Nicole is still “angry” about the fact that her father was sentenced to more than ten years for a crime she doesn’t believe he committed, Joyce says.
According to the documentary maker, Spector’s daughter is trying to get the Innocence Project (which works in the clearing of people wrongly convicted for crimes) to investigate the case and exonerate her father.
Reexamining the evidence
During Spector’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury, and his subsequent retrial when he was convicted for murder, defense lawyers had argued there was no physical evidence that Spector pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Clarkson.
“There weren’t any fingerprints (on the gun). The gun did not contain DNA. “He had no gunshot residue upon him,” Spector’s lawyer Linda Kenney Baden, who is also the trial lawyer for Spector, tells the documentary. She also reveals the lack of blood on Spector’s white jacket on the night Clarkson died.
Don Argott, the director of the documentary along Joyce, said that the pair “kept an opened mind” about Spector’s conviction while they scanned transcripts and reviewed video evidence from his trial.
Both filmmakers agree that Spector’s jury verdict was correct.
Joyce says, “I find it absurd to believe (Lana Clarkson), walked into a stranger’s house, rooted around (Spector’s) stuff, found a gun, and shot herself in her face.”
“We looked at the forensic evidence, and it doesn’t exonerate Phil Spector.
“Nicole is going to keep on what she needs.
“It’s clear to us that Phil Spector did it.”
Argott says, “I can’t alter Nicole’s mind.”
“She holds onto her truth. It is not my job to make it right or remove it.
“I think she has a difficult time reconciling her father, the handsome man she loved… and the portrayal of him being a murderer. She is unable to get there.
“She is holding onto elements of the investigation that she believes are the smoking guns that exonerate her dad, and that’s where they’re at.”
Sky News approached Nicole Spector’s daughter Nicole and the Innocence Project, but she declined to comment.
‘B-movie actress’ label
The documentary examines the murder of Clarkson, as well as the media coverage that referred to Clarkson as a “B movie actress” at the time.
She was a regular on television and film, including a role in the 1980s cult movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
Clarkson worked as a hostess at Los Angeles’ House of Blues when she first met Spector on the night that Spector was killed.
Joyce claims that Clarkson’s description as a B-movie actress was “shorthand” for disposable.
The director said that putting a moniker such as “B-movie actress” before her name suggests that she was desperate.
It’s an easy way to tell a story about someone.
“It was crucial for us to ensure that Lana wasn’t just a footnote of the Phil Spector story.
“We wanted her fully fleshed out.”
Clarkson’s mother Donna is interviewed for the documentary, but Joyce confesses that she had some reservations about participating.
She says, “It can be hard for people sometimes to see the upsides of participating in something such as this.”
“They are talking about the most difficult thing that has ever happened to them.
They’re setting themselves up to disappointment and ridicule. It is tearing open old wounds.
“It was crucial for us that she understood we wanted to flesh out (Lana), as a real character, and not a footnote in Phil Spector’s story.
“It took some convincing, but she eventually trusted us and I feel that we did the right thing for her.”
How Phil Spector was convicted for Lana Clarkson’s assassination
- Phil Spector was with a friend at dinner in Los Angeles, on February 2, 2003. Multiple witnesses claimed that he had been drinking heavily.
- Later that night, he became a waitress at the House of Blues in Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip. There, he met Lana Clarkson who was serving as a hostess.
- Clarkson was invited by Spector to Alhambra, California. Adriano De Souza drove them there.
- De Souza claimed that he heard a sound coming from Spector’s property in the early hours of February 2003. The producer then opened Spector’s door and held a gun in one hand. He said, “I think I’ve killed someone.”
- Officers arrived to find Ms Clarkson’s body in a chair, with one gunshot wound to the mouth.
- Spector was initially arrested, and told police that the gun had been accidentally fired. However, Spector later claimed that Ms Clarkson had committed suicide.
- The televised trial of Spector began in March 2007, but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision.
- In October 2008, Spector was convicted of murder after a retrial that was not televised began. Spector was sentenced to at least 19 years in prison in May 2009.
A’musical genius’ who was convicted of a ‘heinous offense’
Spector’s death received criticism from some media outlets. The BBC apologized for a headline that described Spector as “talented, but flawed”
Joyce states that “a lot people are probably upset at us that we acknowledge His musical genius” in his documentary.
He was a murderer and committed a terrible crime. He was a serial abuser of women for many decades. “That is true,” says the director.
He was also a musician genius. While one can’t negate the other but they don’t have to be in conflict, you can’t reconcile them.
Spector was only 17 years old when he performed with the Teddy Bears in To Know Him Is to Love Him.
He was most well-known for his work as a producer. He worked with the biggest names in music, and created his “wallof sound” recording technique with its dense, layered effect.
He was 21 years old when Spector became a millionaire. John Lennon also collaborated with Spector on Imagine.
Spector’s 1965 song, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ is listed as the record that received the most US airplay during the 20th century.
Joyce answers Joyce’s question about whether Spector’s music can be listened to now without thinking about his murder.
“Can you tell the difference between art and artist?” We don’t have an answer to this question. Every person’s answer is different.
“It’s easier to listen to Phil Spector’s music because he wasn’t the singer. He was the man behind it all.
“I cannot imagine Christmas without his Christmas album.
“That said, he was a brilliant music producer but he also abused women and killed someone. You can’t separate those two things.
“There is no one right answer, and everyone has their own way of looking at it.
“Do we not see Harvey Weinstein-produced movies because of the monster that he is?” Everybody’s line will be different.
Spector can be viewed on Sky Documentaries or streaming service NOW.