The Blotter Presents, Episode 103: I Love You, Now Die

Plus: Patty Hearst and starting your own true crime podcast

On this week’s episode of The Blotter Presents podcast, Sarah and I discuss HBO’s newest true crime property, a two-part docuseries from Erin Lee Carr, whose other works you’ve likely seen. The show, part one of which premiered Tuesday night (part two runs tonight) is called I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, and is about what’s commonly known as the “texting suicide case.”

We covered this case, which revolves around the death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III, once before on The Blotter Presents, when Lifetime released a fictional adaptation called Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill. You’ll be shocked to hear that that movie was not so good! Carr’s adaptation is far better, in our opinions (and in the opinions of writers from CNN and the AV Club). You can listen to our discussion of the show here. -- EB

Given the content of the above item and the show we’re talking about, I feel compelled to add that if someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, officials urge you not to leave the person alone and suggest that you remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, sharp objects or other tools that could be used in a suicide attempt. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please know that you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or go to any emergency room for help from a medical or mental health professional.

I’m still feeling a little guilty for making Sarah watch Patty Hearst for this week’s Cold Case segment of the podcast. Here’s what happened: I wanted a through-line of “enigmatic women whose role in a tragic situation has been the matter of much debate,” which, as you can imagine, isn’t the most googlable sentiment, so I decided to run up to the ATM and think about it as I went. As I deposited my cash, I realized that I was doing so at the site of the Hibernia bank that Hearst and her captors so famously robbed on April 15th of 1974.

A look at The Blotter Presents’s archives showed that while the show had covered the Patty Has A Gun podcast and the episode of The Lost Tapes that dealt with Hearst’s abduction, it had never covered Paul Schrader’s 1988 film Patty Hearst, which boasts a cast including Natasha Richardson, Ving Rhames, and Dana Delany. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, no. It’s artily intended, I suspect, with a self-consciousness that’s to its detriment. And it’s just kind of boring! I don’t recommend that you sit down and give it your undecided attention, but as some critics argue that the film was satirically intended, it might not make for a bad drinking game with friends. You can stream it for free on Vudu or Tubi, both of which are ad-supported streaming services that you can access via your computers/mobile devices, most smart TVs or hardware like a Roku or whatever. Or you can just listen to us gripe about it here. -- EB

While we’re on the Michelle Carter topic: On Monday, her defense team petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case. In the court filing, which you can read here, Carter’s attorneys say that her involuntary manslaughter conviction was “unprecedented" and raises questions about if “words alone” can prompt a conviction.

In a statement sent to media, Carter’s attorney, Daniel Marx, wrote that the petition “focuses on just two of the many flaws in the case against her that raise important federal constitutional issues for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide.” In the petition, Carter’s lawyers say that when judges in Massachusetts upheld Carter’s conviction in February, they provided "no guidance to distinguish sympathetic cases of assisted suicide from culpable cases of unlawful killing,” therefore opening the door to “aggressive prosecutions in all assisted or encouraged suicide cases.”

Speaking with the Washington Post, UCLA law prof and First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh says it’s unlikely that the Supremes will take the case, as “the justices tend to look for questions on which there is a disagreement between lower courts, or for questions of real national importance. This particular question, thankfully, comes up pretty rarely, so there hasn’t been an opportunity for there to be a real disagreement.” Meanwhile, since February Carter has been serving her 15-month sentence in the Bristol County House of Correction, where Sheriff Thomas Hodgson says she is “assimilating very well.” -- EB

People are quitting their jobs to devote themselves full-time to true-crime podcasting. The Tampa Bay Times reports that 30-year-old Justin Drown, who hosts true crime pod Obscura, was able to quit his job as an overnight security guard after the show started generating between $5-6K a month through advertising and Patreon support. Hosts of shows like Trace Evidence and Swindled have similar stories of independent and fan-supported success.

Part of Obscura’s donor model is access to its “Black Label” content, which are made without the help of the freelance writers and researchers who assist Drown with the main show. That’s because, Drown says, those eps are “so dark he’s afraid to ask anyone else to work on them.” “I’m really not a fan of creating them. I actually spend a lot of time telling people not to listen to those,” Drown told the TBT. As anyone who’s ever seen a poster for a horror film knows, characterizing experiences or content as “too disturbing” is a common -- and extremely effective -- sales pitch, as it not only shields the content from accusations of unpleasantness (“You were warned!”) but is catnip for consumers eager to push boundaries. Perhaps we need to start tagging our Patreon-only Blotter Briefs as too hot to handle, too cold to hold? -- EB

The trailer for Who Killed Garrett Phillips? has dropped. That’s another HBO true crime doc, this one from documentarian Liz Garbus (The Fourth Estate, Love, Marilyn). It’s about the 2011 death of a 12-year-old boy that (spoiler) resulted in a civil lawsuit by the man prosecuted for the crime. The show is another two-parter, airing on July 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. It’ll also be the subject of next week’s episode of The Blotter Presents, on which Sarah will be joined by author Lani Diane Rich. -- EB

Thursday, on Best Evidence: Another look at the Selena case, the Nuwaubians, and a remarkable longread we’d like to see an adaptation of.

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