The Trials of Frank Carson: Goliath vs. Goliath

LA Times


Trial podcasts are tricky. To convey some kind of absolute truth sans partiality — to reflect opposing sides of the same story absolutely equally — is an unreasonable bar, and so consequently even the best ones can sound somewhat biased. But in this case, it really is hard not to feel like we’re only being told select details about the story due to the host’s barely concealed support for the protagonist, showman attorney Frank Carson.

That’s not to say the case isn’t interesting or Carson’s murder defense isn’t compelling, it’s just to say that when the prosecutors and their arguments are consistently presented in an aggressively unpalatable light it communicates imbalance — and that really is no fun.

It’s hardly surprising that LA Times‘ Christopher Gifford chose Carson (or perhaps was approached by Carson?) to be the centerpiece of this story. He’s a larger-than-life character with a robust defense and, let’s face it, agreed to speak at length on the record. Moreover, Carson has an interesting story, with more than a little skullduggery, but — and it’s a big but — its treatment really needs more challenge and more tension.

We’re told what to think rather than left to follow the breadcrumbs to what should feel like our own conclusion. The best of these types of narratives provoke and excite when the audience is forced to revise their opinion over and again with each new nugget of evidence.

Frank Carson’s story is a sad one, whichever way you choose to view it. No-one could listen to it and not question the mechanisms that led the case to unfold the way it did. That said, it deserves better treatment than this and more thorough, primary representations of the prosecutorial Goliath he was up against.

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