Plus: An international murder plot roils Canada
Does the trailer for Love & Murder: Atlanta Playboy engender confidence? Not so much, but my residual affection for Taye Diggs makes this dramatic adaptation of Ron Stodghill’s 20027 book Redbone: Money, Malice, and Murder in Atlanta a viable contender for this weekend’s true-crime watchlist.
The 1996 slaying of Lance Herndon is one of those cases that happened right before daily papers started publishing everything online (folks, that sweet SEO juice is there waiting, get on that!) so it’s mostly the spoilery stuff about convictions and incarceration that will help you get a real view on the actually quite interesting case. I will note that Herndon was 41 when he died and Diggs is a gloriously well-preserved 52; as someone who is only five months younger than Diggs I dream of the day someone thinks I’m still in my 40s.
As for the actual crime aspect of this property, I’ll just note that if the movie is legit unwatchable, affordable used copies of Stodghill’s book are readily available online. This film is only on streaming service BET+ (and doesn’t appear to be listed on its linear counterpart); it’s broken into two parts that dropped Sept. 21 and will drop on Sept. 28.
Raise your hand if, like me, you feel like you’re spending too much time keeping the various Murdaugh properties straight. I am not even kidding when I thought about adding a Murdaugh tab to Sarah’s and my “coming soon” spreadsheet. (Yes, we have a budget doc and a spreadsheet! If you didn’t know we were weirdos by now.) So when I saw that the second season of Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal was up for release this week, my first reaction was “this is which one again?”
I argued in February that we’d reached Peak Murdaugh, but now I feel like that peak was actually just an outcropping on a much higher mountain. But it’s a mountain I will probably continue to climb, though I only thought the first season of this series was so-so — because its initial outing premiered as the actual trial was underway, it’s possible that it just felt a little too behind the headlines to keep me engaged.
But this season deals with the trial, Netflix says in its marketing materials, promising “interviews those involved in the case — like jurors, prosecutors, witnesses, and former friends of the Murdaugh family — and gives an in-depth look at the trial, from the media circus that unraveled outside the courthouse to the circumstantial evidence that led to his conviction.” Sure, it’s only three episodes, why not? It dropped on Sept. 20, so some of you have probably whipped through it. Your thoughts are welcomed.
I don’t have MGM+, which gives me a handy excuse to skip Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein. Its first episode appeared on the streaming service last Sunday, and the relative silence from true crime pundits suggests the series — which touts as its market differentiator the opportunity to hear Gein’s voice — isn’t bringing much to the table.
Yet somehow there are four episodes to this thing, with weekly releases. I think I’m on the record, repeatedly, as saying there hasn’t been anything new to say about Gein since 2001, when his headstone was stolen, then mysteriously recovered. (Gein died of lung cancer in 1984, after decades in a mental hospital.) I don’t think I need this in my life, but if you have checked it out or plan to, we’d all love to hear more. — EB
The Bling Ring’s Supposed Leader Finally Speaks Out [Vanity Fair]
Over at Vanity Fair, I interview Erin Lee Carr about The Ringleader, an expanded interview-style documentary that premieres on HBO on Oct. 1. Speaking of market differentiators, this one’s angle is that it features one of the few interviews with Rachel Lee, the alleged leader of the group (I say “alleged” not because she wasn’t convicted in the thefts — she famously was — but because in the interview Lee half-heartedly disputes her position as “ringleader.” So, better safe than sorry!). We’ll talk more about if its true crime that’s worth your time later on, but you can get your first taste of the 95-minute film now. — EB
Rising Separatism, and a Killing, at a Sikh Temple in Canada (gift link) [New York Times]
I feel like daily coverage has barely scratched the surface when it comes to the June slaying of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was fatally shot at a Sikh temple in British Columbia. Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused “agents of the government of India” of carrying out the homicide earlier this week, both countries have booted the others’ diplomats; and explainers on Nijjar’s views and activism have proliferated. This Times report is the most comprehensive and contextualized reporting this American has seen so far (links to good work also welcome in the comments). I have no doubt we’ll see a streaming documentary on this case soon enough, if not a very serious podcast from the NYT. — EB
The Killing of Richard Oakes (gift link) [SF Chronicle]
Here’s your Friday longread, an in-depth report from Jason Fagone and Julie Johnson on assassinated Indigenous rights activist Richard Oakes, a member of the Mohawk tribe and one of the leaders of 1969’s occupation of Alcatraz. There was clearly a drive within the newsroom to make this a rich multimedia package, some of which — like the accompanying video, above — is successful, while other bits (like a scroll-through animation) seem like resources that could have been devoted elsewhere.
Setting aside the bells and whistles, I can’t confirm or debunk the Chron’s assertion that “The true story of his death has gone untold — until now,” as their “first to tell the tale” credibility took a hit with their years-after-others-longwrote-about-it Doodler coverage that bore some of the same claims. But given what a crap job the media does, even now, with crimes against Indigenous folks, this very well might be!
The impact of YMCA camp caretaker Michael Oliver Morgan’s fatal shooting of Oakes is depicted painstakingly and with sensitivity, making this less of a “revelations about the crime” story than one of generational trauma, a pain that is even more understandable when you learn that Morgan was acquitted of all charges at trial. That said, there are also newly reviewed documents and countless interviews with those involved, all in attempt to determine “Was the Morgan trial a miscarriage of justice?” If you’re familiar with this country at all I think you know the answer to this one even without reading the story, but I urge you to dive in anyway. — EB
This section was updated 9/22 to correct Oakes’s first name; sorry for the error!
Next week on Best Evidence: What’s coming this fall, “horrible person” docs, and more.