When I got that first text from one of my theatre friends telling me that the lead from our most recent production had just been arrested for double murder, I knew that this dreadful crime was exactly the kind of story I would see on my favorite true crime TV shows.
In fact, in the past year I’ve noticed just how many of the ID Network show titles seem frighteningly appropriate for Daniel’s crime:
- Nightmare Next Door
- Fear thy Neighbor
- Unusual Suspects
- Murder Among Friends
- Killer Confessions
- Happily Never After (Because of the wedding connection)
The Dateline Producer
I wasn’t surprised at all when Daniel told me that a Dateline producer had already contacted him. I’m going to call her DP (Dateline Producer) to make it easy for you to keep track (there will be other producers mentioned in future posts).
When I started writing this post, I wanted to check back with Daniel on the chronology of his initial contact with DP. He figured it out by remembering who is “cellie” was at that time. He thinks she wrote to him before I sent my first letter, but she came to visit him after Daniel and I became friends.
When someone from the press visits an inmate, the person must identify themselves as press to the deputies at reception. The media person fills out a request form listing their name and their reason for trying to visit. Then, that form is brought to the inmate for approval.
Inmates don’t have to talk to the press and can refuse visits of any kind. But Daniel did meet with DP and I think she hoped she had an exclusive interview on her hands.
Some of you may have noticed that Daniel was not interviewed on the two-hour Dateline episode that aired in January of 2016 (titled “Plot Twist” -which I did think was pretty clever). That is not because they didn’t want him. It was Daniel’s choice to not be interviewed.
Daniel on Lockup
I don’t know if he ever really considered doing an interview with Dateline. His public defender, Scott Sanders, didn’t want him talking to the media, and Daniel’s experience of being on the TV show Lockup was eye-opening for him. Daniel does NOT trust the media.
Now, you could ask, “What’s he worried about? How can the media make him look worse than he already does?”
Let’s be realistic here. I don’t think anyone reading this believes Daniel is an innocent and persecuted victim. No one’s going to end up seeing him interviewed and then suddenly be convinced that he’s actually a monster. It’s very unlikely that being on TV would make people dislike him more, right?
Although Lockup really did an effective job of making Daniel look like an ass.
But Dateline is not Lockup. 20/20 is not Lockup. 48 Hours is not Lockup.
I’ve been repeatedly reminded of that by producers from each of these shows. I agree with them. I’ve told that to Daniel often. He would probably call me naïve, but I think these shows want honest portrayals.
I just don’t know if it makes any difference. Maybe Daniel would come off as the guy I know: funny, kind-of-dorky, genuinely remorseful, and hopeful that he can try to do something good with the rest of his life.
But would anyone believe that was the real him? Or would they think he was just “acting” for the camera? For that matter, I’m betting some of you reading this think he’s just “acting” for me too.
So, what would be the point of Daniel doing an interview? That is a question I have been pondering a lot lately, and the two of us have discussed the topic ad nauseam.
What does any of this have to do with me? Nothing really. But during the trial, Daniel decided to make me his “go to” for the media. He now only talks to these producers through me. I was genuinely surprised when he made that decision. I’ll tell you that story in the next post.
Originally Daniel was communicating with DP directly though. He gave her my contact information when I started writing the blog.
The two of us met once for coffee and talked about me possibly being interviewed for her show. DP said she was interested in examining all aspects of the story. She wanted to hear about the Daniel I knew.
I liked her. She was friendly and professional. I admit that I was pretty excited to have coffee with an actual real Dateline producer. After that, we would text occasionally, and I waited to see what would happen.
During the first days of the trial, I saw DP in the courtroom. I was confused when she didn’t acknowledge me. She wasn’t rude per se, she just acted like we’d never met before. I had a feeling that DP didn’t want to be seen talking to “Daniel’s friend” in front of Sam’s and Julie’s families. I talked to Daniel about my theory on the phone after court one day, and he decided that he wasn’t going to talk to Dateline anymore. That had not been my purpose, but it was interesting to see how he reacted when he thought his friend was being snubbed.
Dateline did have an interview with Rachel, though. I was very interested in hearing her side of things. But that brings up an interesting question: Did we, the viewing audience, get a true picture of Rachel Buffett from her Dateline interview? I don’t know her, and the OC Sheriffs didn’t let Daniel watch the show, so he couldn’t give his take on it.
Anyone who knows Rachel want to comment here?
The producers of 20/20 and 48 Hours were also in the courtroom regularly. Daniel could still do an interview if he wanted to, but he doesn’t.
Why Would Daniel Want To Be Interviewed?
Daniel doesn’t believe that any good will come from him being interviewed on TV. He has apologized to Sam’s and Julie’s families in writing, and feels it wouldn’t make things any easier for them to see him on TV.
Daniel also wants to protect his own family, whom he loves very much. He has no desire to answer questions about his upbringing, which he doesn’t blame at all for how his life turned out.
And let’s not forget that Rachel hasn’t been to trial yet. You know that any interview with him would be filled with questions about her. If Daniel gives a “no comment” response about Rachel, people will just assume the answers. Daniel has his reasons for not wanting to publicly comment on Rachel right now (I can only guess what they are).
I suppose I can’t argue with any of that, but I still have. Sometimes I think an interview would be a good idea.
Maybe there is a tiny part of Daniel that still wants to be heard. I know that he cares deeply about the OC informant scandal. He could talk about that for days. But it’s not what you think; he doesn’t discuss the topic in reference to helping his own case… although I’m sure there is plenty of appeal material there that will one day come into play.
Maybe there is a part of me that wants people to have the opportunity to see the Daniel I see. Perhaps then, less people will want to kill him (or at least they will stop telling me to get cancer because I’m friends with him).
Either way, it’s not really my decision. I have influence, but I’m just not sure what to do with it.