The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

True Crime

Posted on | March 25, 2011 | 14 Comments

During my two-day illness, in waking moments in between Nyquil-induced sleep, I watched re-runs of The First 48 on A&E.

The “true crime” genre has been one of my favorites since childhood. Perhaps this reflects the influence of my mother, who was a big fan of TV detective dramas like Columbo and The Rockford Files. When I was in middle-school, I read Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi’s account of the Manson Family murders and was fascinated. When I was a freshman in college, one of the assigned readings in my English 101 class was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It was awesome.

Mass-murder and serial killings, however, are relative rarities, and most murders aren’t really all that mysterious. The murders that become national news tend to be non-typical murders — they are particularly heinous, or involve celebrities or millionaires, or feature that most newsworthy of victims, The Attractive Young Blonde. (There’s a Ph.D. thesis topic for an ambitious young scholar: The relative frequency of attractive white females as murder victims, compared to the amount of TV coverage their murders receive.)

I’ve always been a fan of the C*O*P*S series on Fox because the show de-mystifies law enforcement and de-glamorizes crime. Nine times out of ten, the crimes dealt with by the patrol officers on C*O*P*S aren’t exciting or mysterious. Most of the time, it’s a domestic-violence situation involving lowlife scum in bad neighborhoods — white trailer-trash,  black ghetto-trash or Hispanic barrio-trash. In many cases, the victims of these crimes are scarcely more sympathetic characters than the perpetrators. Really, who can muster much sympathy for the drunken tattooed redneck woman who gets beat up by her burnout meth-head hillbilly boyfriend? Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

There is a comic familiarity to the repetitive scenarios played out nightly on C*O*P*S. And while TV viewers can laugh at the pathetic problems of these lowlife losers, we realize that this is what police deal with every day as part of their jobs. It’s a stark contrast to the exciting and mysterious crime stories on fictional shows like CSI and Criminal Minds.

Ditto, The First 48. There is not usually anything too mysterious about the homicides investigated by real-life detectives on the show. Not a lot of CSI-type forensics or psychology “profiling” is necessary to solve these crimes. One of the episodes I saw during my two-day sickout involved a young man in Birmingham who was killed by his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Here’s the actual news account of that case:

Stetory Calhoun received a mandatory term today of life without parole in the capital murder of his girlfriend’s former boyfriend, who was killed while sitting in a car amid a crowd celebrating the Magic City Classic football game in Birmingham during October 2007.
Calhoun, 23, was convicted in the killing Kenneth Holmes, 21, on Oct. 26, 2007. Calhoun continued to maintain his innocence during today’s sentencing hearing.
The shooting stemmed from relationships both men had with Jatavius Thomas, who was the mother of the victim’s child and Calhoun’s girlfriend.

What that brief account leaves out is that the killer’s street name is “Booby.” And if you watch The First 48 regularly, you can be forgiven for believing that having a “street name” increases a person’s likelihood of becoming either a murderer or a murder victim. Because the detectives on The First 48 always seem to be dealing with these street-named characters.

One of the “also-known-as” perpetrators, featured in The First 48 episode “Alias,” was Preston Troupe, a/k/a “Eric,” accused of killing 51-year-old Steven Meeks in Louisville. Troupe was a dope dealer and Meeks wanted some dope. Troupe sent his girlfriend Candi to deliver the dope, but Meeks was dissatisfied with the quality and refused to pay.

So then Troupe goes over and shoots Meeks dead.

Witnesses only knew Candi and “Eric” by their nicknames, but the police database includes aliases, so detectives pretty quickly ID’d Troupe as the likely suspect. When detectives showed Troupe’s photo to witnesses, however, they didn’t identify him — perhaps because of Troupe’s nasty reputation for intimidating snitches.

This left detectives to question Candi. The car Candi was driving was registered to Troupe, but Candi disclaimed any knowledge of a drug deal and refused even to admit that Troupe was known as “Eric.” The investigation is at a dead end until, three weeks later, Candi comes back to the police department in a neck brace because Troupe had beat the crap out of her. Now she’s ready to tell the truth, and Candi explains that Troupe had previously threatened her life if she went to police. Here’s the news account of that case:

A murder suspect now faces more charges in connection with the case against him.
On Monday a grand jury indicted Preston Troupe on charges of intimidating a witness and retaliation against a witness.
Troupe is charged in the shooting death of 51-year-old Steven Meeks, who was shot in apartment on Taylor Boulevard in June.
The grand jury also indicted 31-year-old Larry Davidson for kidnapping and intimidating a witness.
Homicide investigators say Davidson held Troupe’s ex-girlfriend against her will in an attempt to get her not to talk with authorities.

None of these people engage our sympathy: Not Troupe, not his dumbass girlfriend Candi, and not even the victim, Meeks. Because let’s face it, if you refuse to pay a dope dealer, and he shoots you dead, how is that anybody’s fault but your own?

Either pay the man, or don’t do dope. It’s really not complicated.

But the lowlife scum have difficulty coping with even these uncomplicated rules of street life.

It’s kind of a rarity on The First 48 for the victim to be entirely innocent. Not that anybody deserves to be murdered, but a majority of the victims in the cases featured on the show end up dead because, at the very least, they were hanging out with lowlife scum.

Lowlife scum with “street names”: Avoid them, and your chances of getting murdered are significantly decreased.

Some Ph.D. should do a thesis demonstrating that conclusion.


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