Chasing Charlie · Scott Peterson · Vape Kingpins
Plus an ID "town hall," and what abolishing the police really looks like.
Hello, everyone — I hope you’re all staying safe out there. Apologies for the late publish time today; lots going on, for all of us. If you’ve got a longread or doc you’d like us to look at/talk about, we’re listening! Send a note to editorial at the-blotter dot com, or leave a comment here. — SDB
ID is holding a George Floyd “town hall” tonight at 8/7 Central. The Murder of George Floyd: A Nation Responds is hosted by ID’s Tony Harris, and will feature “a panel of law enforcement, press, activists and crusaders” — including “PBS Newshour Correspondent and NBC & MSNBC Political Contributor Yamiche Alcindor, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, racial justice attorney, author and activist Lurie Favors, Co-Founder of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability, Redditt Hudson, and civil rights activist and Organizer of Campaign Zero, Deray McKesson.” This is right before all Discovery networks simulcast OWN Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here at 9/8 CT; that, of course, is hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
I’m not not interested in specials like these, but I wonder what you guys think of them. Do you think they meet a need? Do they feel like they come out of a need on networks’/media figures’ need to do (or be seen doing) something? It can be both! Just wondering about your-all’s take, and whether you’re going to watch either of them. (My AFI DOCS press pass and I are probably going to bury ourselves in that content instead.) — SDB
The California Supreme Court is considering arguments that Scott Peterson didn’t receive a fair trial because of media attention. Attorneys for Peterson argued last week via videoconference — Peterson, currently incarcerated at San Quentin, wasn’t present — that Peterson “get a new trial because of errors by the trial judge. [Peterson’s lawyer, Cliff] Gardener claimed they included dismissing potential jurors opposed to the death penalty, creating a jury predisposed toward the death penalty, and not moving the trial to another location because of the massive pretrial publicity against Peterson.”
The court has 90 days to consider the arguments. In the meantime, if Peterson’s case has receded in your memory, the Modesto Bee article linked above also includes a solid explainer of the case evidence, and the issues under debate. — SDB
Fans of the Who The Hell Is Hamish? podcast might have a new must-listen: Chasing Charlie. I for one was just relieved the “Charlie” in question wasn’t the usual runty Helter Skelter suspect, as Stuff reports that Chasing Charlie — which dropped at the end of May — tells the story of Melbourne P.I. Julia Robson’s quest to track down “Charlie Giltrap” (way to not bury the lede in your alias there, guy) on behalf of a client “Charlie” had fleeced to the tune of seventy grand. The way Stuff’s Katy Atkin describes the topic as true-crime-fan catnip — “a sexual and immoral villain, vulnerable and brainwashed victims and a dogged female PI who stays the course” — is weirdly antique, but…probably not inaccurate, and as soon as I get through a thirty-four-hour audiobook about the New York Mafia (oh, Selwyn), I’m going to give this one a listen. Anyone heard it yet? — SDB
What would “abolish the police” really look like? Texas Monthly talked to two Texas criminal-justice experts, Chas Moore and Scott Henson, about the lack of checks and balances in/on police departments, reform vs. revolution, and where the funding goes instead.
Asked about accountability in both racist police actions and the coverage of those actions, Henson ripped journos a new one:
That’s our biggest barrier to change: journalists deciding to do their damn job and stop kissing the police union’s ass and giving them undue influence would solve half of that problem when it comes to accountability to the public. I call that laziness but if you’re being generous, it’s the constraints of journalism in this era. Most newsrooms have seen cuts, and there are fewer journalists covering more stuff. So you’re going to do what’s easy: calling the police union and getting a quote and running that.
At first I bristled at this, although 1) I’m hardly a journo and 2) Henson’s not wrong, but it put me in mind of something Eve and I were Slacking about last week — parallel to the conversation many people are having about “copaganda” in pop culture, the reality that, in many true-crime narratives (true-crime books, tabloid newsmags), the cops take the POV or stand at the center of the story because they’re the ones who can and will participate. The victim of a murder is not able to speak except through evidence; defendants often can’t, from the middle of ongoing litigation, and neither can material witnesses and attorneys; law enforcement gets to set the tone.
On the other hand, the quotes gotten and run from law enforcement are often so glibly uninformational and passive-voice — and, IMO, allowed to sound that way by reporters, especially in longer-form pieces — that I think I unconsciously just discount them as the equivalent of a non-denial denial. But it’s all still worth keeping in mind: who’s “allowed” to talk, who’s given a voice, and how that influences the reader/viewer without our knowing it. — SDB
If you’d like to influence a reader in your life, let me remind you that Best Evidence makes a great no-contact gift.
And if you’d like to influence your bank account in a positive way, we pay! Not well, mind you, but we do pay, and if you’ve got a head-to-head review, online-film-fest diary, or vintage-book takedown that needs to see the light, we’d love to have a look. Email us: editorial at the-blotter dot com.
Remember when vaping was a thing everyone was all het up about? Today’s last item is a longread from The Before Time — Stephen S. Hall’s New York cover story from early February of this year (which technically was 44 years ago) on the public-health crisis and ancillary criminality caused by “sucking on a battery.”
Tyler and Jacob Huffhines, above, got arrested in a massive black-market vaping-ring bust in suburban Wisconsin last year — and would have made compelling inspirations for that third season of American Vandal we’re regrettably never getting. — SDB
Wednesday on Best Evidence: The Blotter Presents 146 with Dr. Marcia Chatelain on Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story and Woman On Trial: The Lawrencia Bembenek Story. I’ll serve you some piping fresh show notes tomorrow; until then, check out my interview with Marcia from a couple months ago.
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