Nassar · Murdaugh · Petito

Also: Durst · Holmes · Kelly. Yeah, it's a lot.

There’s a lot of of-the-moment true crime going down. There are almost too many “breaking” stories to follow this week, and we’re certainly not going to try. Instead, we’re looking for the most thoughtful examinations of the cases that have dominated the headlines in recent days. Here’s what we’ve found. — EB


The case: Sexual assault coverup at USA Gymnastics
Existing adaptations: Athlete A, At the Heart of Gold (other recommendations welcome in the comments)
The news hook: Per the Associated Press, gymnast Simone Biles, a victim of the sex abuse scandal at the gymnastics organization, told Congress that officials at the top of the U.S. Olympics groups “knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”

To read now: The Indianapolis Star showed Simone Biles the ‘magnitude’ of gymnastics abuse. How it got the story [Washington Post]

The Indianapolis Star is widely credited for bringing the wide-ranging allegations of sex abuse against team doctor Larry Nassar to light in a 2016 investigation called Out of Balance. In a new report, the Post breaks down how the Star got the story — all within the context of how local newsrooms and publications are struggling more than ever to stay afloat.


The case: The Murdaugh family
Existing adaptations: None yet, but Deadline reported on Sept 8 that HBOMax is planning a multi-part doc series on the June 2021 deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
The news hook: As Sarah noted Monday, lawyer Alex Murdaugh allegedly asked a former client to kill him on Sept. 4 as part of an alleged insurance scheme, the New York Times reports.

To read now: Why we can't look away from the Murdaugh saga [CNN]

This opinion piece from smartypants writer/lawyer Jill Filipovic elegantly recaps the extremely complicated threads of the case, before going into about 5 paragraphs of the same questions we all have. She then drops into a consideration of why this story, more than many others, has captured the public’s attention. She posits that “a desire to see some moral come out of this sordid story” is why we’ve all been clicking on every Murdaugh-related link we see.


The case: Theranos blood-testing fraud
Existing adaptations: Too many to list!
The news hook: Elizabeth Holmes’s trial on 12 charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in San Jose continues, with CNBC reporting that a former Theranos staffer testified that Holmes pressured scientists to say testing machines were more accurate than their data suggested.

To read now: The Elizabeth Holmes Trial Is a Wake-Up Call for Sexism in Tech [NY Times]

The Times is making extreeeemely sure we all know that this piece, by Silicon Valley mainstay Ellen Pao, is a “guest essay,” and even describes it as a letter to the editor. But it’s a lot more than that: Pao is a fascinating figure in the Valley, one of the first women to break ranks and call out the rampant gender discrimination in the tech game. So she knows what she’s talking about when she tackles the Holmes issue, struggling with the arguable (or is it?) double standard when it comes to how founders fake it until they make it. By the end of it, I was thinking a lot about Martha Stewart and her conviction, which is another story I’d love to see another run at with our contemporary eyes. I think these two trials (and the public perception thereof) have a lot more in common than not.


The case: Robert Durst probably killed several people and seemingly got away with it
Existing adaptations: The Jinx, duh.
The news hook: As Sarah noted Monday, a Los Angeles jury convicted Durst of the slaying of Susan Berman, who prosecutors claim helped the real estate magnate cover up his murder of his first wife, Kathie, in 1982.

To read now: How HBO’s ‘The Jinx’ helped lead to millionaire Robert Durst’s murder conviction [Washington Post]

Like the Indianapolis Star above and (spoiler) Surviving R Kelly below, it’s likely that without The Jinx, the suspects in these cases would still be free to harm more folks. It’s a sobering thought, and one that Jinx creator Andrew Jarecki (who also made the Ryan Gosling/Kirsten Dunst fictional take on the Durst case, which is so so weird) appears to take seriously, saying that “Bob is dangerous and had been wandering around for a very long time without ever being held accountable.” Other folks who spoke with the Post’s Timothy Bella credited Jarecki for Durst’s conviction, with former NY cop turned criminal justice prof Joe Giacalone saying, “Did the documentary play a sole role in convicting Durst? No. But did it help? Absolutely. It shows you how powerful these things could be.”


A post shared by @gabspetito

The case: The death of aspiring travel blogger Gabby Petito
Existing adaptations: How many meetings do you think are happening right now in newsrooms and studios all over the country?
The news hook: Anything I link here will likely be outdated by the time you read this, the story is moving so fast. Here’s what CNN was reporting as I typed this.

To read now: Gabby Petito's disappearance shouldn't be an internet true crime thriller [Mashable]

I felt a flash of guilt as I read that headline — the Petito case has dominated discussions with several of my friends this weekend, and even my young nieces were bringing it up every time we passed a decent-sized van. Culture reporter Morgan Sung argues that “the voyeuristic online frenzy to find Gabby Petito is in poor taste,” and that many posts in online discussions of the case “verge on distastefully opportunistic.” As I scrolled past the ads on Mashable’s pages, as well as the many related content prompts and encouragement to sign up for its other products, to read through Sung’s story, it occurred to me that she might have a point.


The case: R. Kelly allegedly sexually assaulted and abused a slew of people, many underage, over his decades of fame
Existing adaptations: Surviving R. Kelly
News hook: Prosecutors in Kelly’s New York racketeering trial rested their case Monday, CNN reports.

To read now: Waiting To Testify At R. Kelly’s Trial [New Yorker]

Lizzette Martinez, who you know from Surviving R Kelly, tells reporter Jim DeRogatis about her ambivalence about the docuseries, including that she felt it took her painful experiences and turned them into entertainment. “It becomes like a soap opera, when it’s actually someone’s real life,” she said.


Wednesday on Best Evidence: It’s a subscriber-only issue, so to find out you know what you must do…


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