Trial 4 · Vallejo PD · The NRA

Plus Weinman on Linda Millar, and December's bonus book

Welcome back! I hope everyone got lots of reading done over the long weekend. (Or ignored your reading to take naps!) As usual, I had ambitious “catch up on my Goodreads reading challenge” plans, then got becalmed by an installment of Bake Off I’d never seen before, but oh well. I did publish my review of Capote In Kansas for paid subscribers…and it’s time to pick the next book I review! A couple of these appeared in my Lineup from last week; another charted well in last month’s poll; pick me a gooder! — SDB

Pick a book now!

The BBC has commissioned a true-crime drama based on the Farquhar case. Called The Sixth Commandment (and come to think on it, I’m surprised there aren’t more properties in the genre with a variation on that name already), the series comes from Wild Mercury Productions, the outfit behind Humans (heard of ’em). Here’s a quick overview of the case, and the series’s intended focus, from

It tells the story of how the meeting of an inspirational teacher, Peter Farquhar, and a charismatic young student, Ben Field, who bonded over their love of books and involvement with the Church Of England, set the stage for one of the most complex and confounding criminal cases in recent memory.

It also focuses on how suspicions around Ben’s relationship with Peter’s deeply religious neighbour Ann Moore-Martin, also targeted by Field, unlocked a series of stunning revelations, culminating in a headline-grabbing trial.

The Sixth Commandment (w/t) captures the initial seductions, the extreme gaslighting, the gripping police investigation and Peter’s killer finally being brought to justice four years after his untimely death. While poignantly highlighting the damaging effect of isolation and loneliness, it also celebrates both Peter and Ann’s lives as cherished mentors, much loved relatives and adored friends.

The Mirror’s take on this as Midsomer Murders-meets-Gaslight is pretty on point. Looking forward to seeing how they cast this one; any ideas, you lot? — SDB

The NRA is trying to get out in front of a tax-fraud case implicating its executives. Several months after New York State’s AG Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the gun nuts alleging fraud and abuse, an NRA tax document obtained by WaPo sees the org “admitting” to malfeasance (read: “blaming people no longer with the company”):

After years of denying allegations of lax financial oversight, the National Rifle Association has made a stunning declaration in a new tax filing: Current and former executives used the nonprofit group’s money for personal benefit and enrichment.

The NRA said in the filing that it continues to review the alleged abuse of funds, as the tax-exempt organization curtails services and runs up multimillion-dollar legal bills. The assertion of impropriety comes four months after the attorney general of New York state filed a lawsuit accusing NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and other top executives of using NRA funds for decades to provide inflated salaries and expense accounts.

The tax return, which The Washington Post obtained from the organization, says the NRA “became aware during 2019 of a significant diversion of its assets.” The 2019 filing states that LaPierre and five former executives received “excess benefits,” a term the IRS uses to describe executives’ enriching themselves at the expense of a nonprofit entity.

“Became aware.” Uh huh. Tish James:

Anyway, Beth Reinhard and Carol D. Leonnig’s report drily notes a lot of massaging language from the NRA — “inappropriate” this, “committed to compliance” that, “shocked, shocked!” to find the other thing — that suggests the announcement is the old “admit to some little shit in an effort to dodge the big shit.” Get ’em, James. — SDB

Trial 4 director Remy Burkel thinks his recent docuseries benefited from “the Netflix effect.” I still haven’t gotten around to Trial 4, but’s Kevin Slane’s interview with Burkel earlier this month, while spoilery, is also informative and process-y about filming during an active case, how to handle those who refuse to participate, and the ways a series’s status as a Netflix property can Heisenberg how case figures conduct themselves:

It was going to be a courtroom drama. We had done that before with [Netflix docuseries] “The Staircase” and [Sundance Channel docuseries] “Sin City Law.” But we could feel the change coming on. When Rachael Rollins and a few others were elected, we felt something was going to change. The case had been pushed back three or four times, but we still didn’t expect it to change as fast as it did.

At the time, I felt that the election of Rachael Rollins and the fact that we were filming might have an impact on the outcome. We saw this with “Making a Murder,” another Netflix documentary series, a sort of “Netflix Effect.” People say “Uh oh, they’re filming this, this is going to go out all over the country, maybe worldwide. We better be careful.”

The specter of Charles Stuart continues to haunt Boston criminal justice — alas — and Burkel calls that out, too. It’s a good read, but it’s one of those interviews that makes you wish they’d just run the unabridged transcript, although maybe that’s just me. Do some of Burkel’s answers feel expected to you? And if you watched Trial 4, should I bump it to the top of my list? — SDB

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We’ve got a holiday-themed series coming in December! The 12 Days Of Best Evidence will surface lesser-known cases and coverage, loosely tied to the 12 items an unhinged S.O. gifted a Christmas-carol author all those years ago. We welcome your suggestions!

Our suggestion, predictably, is that you skip trying to wrap all those waterfowl and get your loved ones a paid B.E. subscription instead. It fits in a stocking, it’s got zero carbon footprint, it won’t peck the cats*, and these two elves would appreciate it a great deal. — SDB

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Shane Bauer’s “How a Deadly Police Force Ruled a City” is a terrifying longread from the November 16 New Yorker. The subhed speaks for itself — “After years of impunity, the police in Vallejo, California, took over the city’s politics and threatened its people.” — but as enraging as the piece is, it’s also excellent at slow-building frustration and feelings of helplessness in the reader in the face of corrupt/inept policing, paralleling the same growing feelings in the local populace.

And Sarah Weinman dropped another piece on CrimeReads last week, this one about Linda Millar. Millar was the troubled daughter of crime novelists Margaret and Kenneth “Ross Macdonald” Millar:

I went back to the piece to scan it for a pull quote and got sucked right back into it; Weinman understands the material doesn’t need dressing up, and sticks to reporting it. It’s a grimy window into another time; give it a look (although Macdonald fans will find little to like about the guy) and join me in hoping that a future Weinman piece dives deeper into that husband-and-wife detective team (there’s an accordion-related “side hustle”! come on!).

CrimeReads also recommended five true-crime books last week: one was already on my (bulging to the point of hernia) list, three more went on it after I read the piece, the last one looks like a hate-read (hey, John Douglas), and they’re all candidates for Book Club. — SDB

This week on Best Evidence: DiCaprio vs. Flower Moon, COVID fraud (already), and SDB reviews an augmented-reality true-crime app. Bet she loves it*!

*probably not

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