March 25th 2021
We mentioned How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life — Abbott Kahler’s Vulture* report on how “the Water for Elephants author’s six-year fight to free an incarcerated man left her absolutely broke and critically ill” — in yesterday’s Best Evidence, but the conversation on the story has bloomed so much in the day following that it makes sense to revisit it for our weekend discussion.
Since it was published, Gruen’s become a trending topic on Twitter (but has, herself, remained silent), and the reporting of the story has faced scrutiny for issues like — as noted by Josie Duffy Rice, the president of criminal justice pub The Appeal — its failure to mention the central role that oft-problematic former Los Angeles County DA played in the tale. Lacey “made exoneration as difficult as she possibly could on both Murdoch and Gruen and yet her NAME ISN’T EVEN IN THE ARTICLE,” Duffy Rice says. (h/t to Tara Ariano for that one.)
Still others, like Elena Avanzas (above) suggest that the popularity of true crime is somehow to blame for Gruen’s predicament, implicating Serial (and, presumably, its first-season exoneration battle) in the case.
Is it that simple? Is Gruen’s situation the other side of the at-home detective, the distaff version of the Michelle McNamara mythos? How much of Gruen’s behavior can be chalked up to the true-crime phenomenon? And, to Rice Duffy’s point, what’s the responsibility of a crime/memoir piece like “How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life” to get nuts-and-boltsy with the actual details of the case — is it enough to spin a good yarn, or do we need process explication, as well?
You all had a lot of smart stuff to say about the story yesterday, now let’s get meta and talk about what it all means. — EB
*If you’re hitting a paywall at Vulture, the story also ran on The Marshall Project.
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