Samuel Little · Heaven's Gate · Felicity Huffman

Plus: how a registered sex offender thrived in Hollywood

See that raccoon? That raccoon is me, sweeping up all the links we’ve assembled over the holiday weekend. Buckle up, we’ve got a lot of quick takes on big stories to get through. — EB

Speaking of big stories, don’t forget to vote for the December book-review book! Eve, back over to you. — SDB

The Perfect Victim [Washington Post] The Post has launched a three-part series on prolific serial killer Samuel Little (parts two and three have yet to pub). Here’s a snip:

Little’s decades of impunity underscore a troubling truth about the U.S. criminal justice system: It is possible to get away with murder if you kill people whose lives are already devalued by society.

“Could it happen again today?” said Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent who has worked on some of the bureau’s highest-profile cases. “The answer, of course, is yes.”

Here’s the trailer for Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults. The HBO Max docuseries is based on Stitcher podcast Heaven’s Gate. It drops on the streaming service on December 3.

Should CSI fans be excused from jury duty? A new study from Arizona State University suggests that they might be bad in the box, as “consumption of fictional crime shows influences expectations and perceptions of forensic evidence.” If you want to fully nerd out on this stuff the way I did, you can take a look at the research docs and full findings here.

Scott Peterson is just one California inmate named in an unemployment benefits scam. The New York Times says that “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history” used “the names of prisoners, including many on death row” to apply for unemployment during the pandemic. The payments were deposited into inmate accounts in many cases, and in other cases, the funds were mailed directly to the jails. NBC reports that an attorney for Peterson says that “he had not a thing to do with any kind of scheme to get fraudulent benefits.”

Speaking of, Scott Peterson’s sister-in-law says a detective has identified new suspects in his high-profile murder case. In an email exchange with San Francisco broadcast TV station KRON 4, Janey Peterson says that the suspects in a burglary across the street from the Petersons’ home have been linked to the case. From Peterson:

“Just four days after Steven Todd and Glenn Pearce were arrested, ‘America’s Most Wanted’ ran a story on Laci’s disappearance. An anonymous call came into their hotline. We refer to it as the AMW tip. Like other leads, this handwritten tip was lost in over 48,000 pages of discovery only to be found years after Scott’s trial. This caller said he had a conversation with two men who were bragging about Laci’s murder. The first man was a named individual whom, due to our ongoing investigation, we will call ‘John Doe.’ The second man was unnamed, but the tipster gave a description and knew where the second individual lived. It was reported that John Doe said ‘when they did it they thought it was going to be just another murder case . . . now it’s a big case all over TV and news . . . and they are blaming the husband and they are not getting any attention.’ John Doe went on to say how stupid everyone was.”

This will doubtlessly come up in a now inevitable-seeming retrial for Peterson, who remains incarcerated in San Quentin.

Screenwriter Eric Roth says that Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t like his screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon. Roth adapted David Grann’s true-crime look at homicides in the Osage Nation, for a film to be directed by Martin Scorsese and to star DiCaprio. But on a recent episode of Scriptnotes, Roth said that “My screenplay I think was accurate to the book” but that filming was delayed because “Leonardo wanted some things changed that we argued about. He won half of [the arguments]. I won half of them.” You can hear the full interview here, and get a recap of the true-crime bits on IndieWire.

Hollywood has forgiven Felicity Huffman. Deadline reports that a little more than a month after Huffman completed her sentence in the college admissions scandal, ABC has signed her for an “untitled comedy is inspired by Susan Savage, the real-life owner of the Triple-A baseball team the Sacramento River Cats.” (An odd note: Deadline says that Huffman’s character’s oldest son is “a baseball devotee with Down syndrome,” but neither of Savage’s real-life kids appear to have that particular characteristic, so, OK!)

Are you ready to welcome Huffman back to your living room, or will the desire to make “ruh-roh” cracks overcome you?

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The first-ever Russian/U.S. TV series collab will be a true-crime show. Frozen Land is an eight-part docuseries on Dmitry Lebed, who from 2012 to 2017 killed at least four women and raped at least 11. Known as the “Abakan Strangler,” he used rental cars to masquerade as a cab driver in a small Russian town, taking advantage of a local police force that declined to investigate most cases of sexual assault. Variety reports that production on the show will begin in spring of 2021.

NPR podcast Louder Than a Riot says it’s found evidence to exonerate rapper Mac Phipps. McKinley Phipps Jr. has been fighting his manslaughter conviction for over 20 years, saying that his 30-year sentence for a slaying outside a nightclub was based on false testimony. Now NPR says that its podcasters have found evidence of Phipps’s innocence, a claim that follows a 2016 investigative series by HuffPost that similarly uncovered issues with Phipps' prosecution and sentencing. Despite that, Phipps remains in prison, with little movement on his case.

How a Registered Sex Offender Thrived in Hollywood [Variety] A longread on cinematographer Adam Kimmel, who worked on movies like Beautiful Girls, Capote, and Never Let Me Go, and “was arrested and charged twice for sexual crimes against underage girls, once in 2003 and again in 2010.” Here’s a snip:

Kimmel also continues to be a “renowned Cinematographer” among his peers — that’s how he was described in a (recently taken down) press release issued in February, when he was a keynote speaker at an International Cinematographers Guild event, during which there was a “energetic Q&A session.” The previous month, Kimmel was invited by Professor Dejan Georgevich — who is the national vice president of the ICG — to give a talk to students at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. (Georgevich did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment about bringing Kimmel into his classroom.)

His memberships in elite organizations have kept Kimmel in high regard. Yet if reality shows now scour the backgrounds of potential cast members not only for crimes but for past missteps on social media, surely these organizations should care that they have someone on the national sex offender registry among their ranks.

I mean, seriously, look at all those links. This is what we do, people! Our job at Best Evidence is to winnow the tidal waves of true-crime content every day to bring you the most relevant, interesting, and unusual stories out there — all with the level of analysis that comes from decades as a pop-culture critic (Sarah) and as a hard news reporter (Eve). We understand that many of you are on a tight budget already, and we don’t blame you for staying on the free plan. But for those of you who have a little cash to spare, we’d love it if you’d sign up for a paid subscription, either for yourself or for a friend. We put a lot of time into Best Evidence, every day, and it’s your support that will allow us to continue with that investment.

Wednesday on Best Evidence: Well, it’s like a Christmas carol, but with crime.

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