Facing the man who ruined your life

Hullo. I can’t believe this is only issue #3. It feels like we’ve been doing this for ages.

This week I have the privilege of talking about great journalism. The podcast in question has wrapped, barring any new developments in the case. It’s a story of wrongful conviction and what amounts to a miscarriage of justice.

Unlike that other show – you know the one – there’s no pretence at impartiality here. We’re told right from the off that this guy didn’t do it, and there’s credible evidence to at least stand up a new trial. As I’ve read in other publications, with this podcast, the judicial system is what’s on trial.

The podcast in question is Bone Valley, from Lava for Good. Gilbert King introduces us to the story of Leo Schofield, who’s currently still in a Florida prison for the murder of his wife in 1987.

It feels a bit crass to blow the spoiler horn for something that happened in real life, but that’s what 21st century media consumption habits say is appropriate. So from here on out, I’m going to be dropping some significant, but not appreciation-destroying spoilers.

Kelsey Decker and Gilbert King

With his assistant Kelsey Decker, Gilbert combs through years of court transcripts, re-examines evidence, and interviews witnesses and – crucially – the two men at the centre of the whole case: Leo Schofield (the accused), and Jeremy Scott, the man who confessed to killing Leo’s wife.

The minute I’m sharing with you is from chapter 6. It’s a striking and raw retelling of the moment Leo and Jeremy cross paths on the way to and from the courthouse.

If you’ll allow me, let me present some tasting notes for this piece of audio, which starts at around 1:03:25. Without the context of the five preceding episodes, you might listen to this and think “well that’s just the angry words of a violent killer”. I think you’d be wrong to think that.

What I hear in this clip are the words of a desperate man, a man whose development has been arrested through incarceration, contemplating a meeting with the man who stole two lives from him: his wife’s and his own.

The only thing we hear apart from Leo’s voice and a little shifting-in-place, is a few quiet strums of a guitar. There’s no fancy effects, no adornments whatsoever. Just someone exposing a raw nerve.

What this teaches me is the value of building trust with your guest over a long period of time. Whether you’re interviewing someone for one episode or ten, if their story is impactful but doesn’t immediately unravel, no amount of clever questioning will get you a truthful answer. It has to come from someone willing to listen without judgement, and lead with curiosity.i

To my implausibly-sized chagrin I failed to note down where I found out about Bone Valley. I could’ve sworn it was the Find That Pod newsletter, but my archives say otherwise. Let’s just say it was that newsletter… it’s a really good one anyway.

Next week we’re taking a trip that glances ever-so-slightly off Spooky Street but ends up squarely in Charming Crescent. So, let’s you and me meet same time again next Sunday. Have a great week.

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