Review Fix chats with Deliberations Podcast creator Chelsea Cox, who discusses the unique offering and how she decided to create it.
2017…As the first dramatically improvised courtroom drama to enter the podcast sphere, Deliberations launches with two episodes on August 16. Deliberations takes you inside the jury room of a highly publicized erotic murder trial. By employing improvisation in the storytelling, Deliberations creates an authentic environment for jurors to find a verdict. By asking hard questions about ambiguous circumstances, it holds up a lens to our criminal justice system. Created and produced by Los Angelean Chelsea Cox, Deliberations begs the question: where is the line drawn between consent and murder?
Deliberations brings listeners inside the salacious murder trial of dominatrix Samantha Hall. Hall is charged with killing her submissive lover Troy Singer by ordering him to asphyxiate with a rope. As the press sensationalizes the case, jurors pass judgement on the BDSM lifestyle as probed and explored in graphic psychological detail by experts on the stand. Renowned Los Angeles dominatrix Justine Cross guest stars on episode two, which delves deeper into the Dom/sub dynamic. Jurors learn about the surprising history of erotic asphyxiation, probe the victim’s submissive psyche, and challenge one another’s preconceptions. Themes of tolerance and feminism permeate the tense discussions, but everything ultimately hinges on the question: did Samantha want Troy dead?
Review Fix: How did this podcast come to be?
Chelsea Cox: My obsession with jury trials began on July 5 2011, the day the Casey Anthony verdict was handed down. I remember standing in the middle of my living room agape, blinking at the television screen, unable to find words. Confusion had so thoroughly engulfed me I couldn’t reach down and find outrage. Beneath my bemusement was more bemusement. That was the moment I understood our criminal justice system wasn’t only flawed. It was broken.
Review Fix: What else inspired it?
Cox: I wanted to show the process of deciding a person’s fate in uncomfortably graphic detail. Things go wrong inside of jury rooms every day. What is happening on the inside?
I wanted to explore the way ambiguous jury directions, testimony, and evidence is interpreted by a group of random strangers. I wanted to showcase how truly odd the trial by jury system is.
Review Fix: Who do you think will like it the most?
Cox: Courtroom junkies. True crime junkies. People who loved Serial and the wave of murder-related podcasts to rise up in its wake. There is an entire genre in podcasting that caters to listeners fascinated by murder, and it is thriving. I call them “murdercasts.”Deliberations is going to be the first fictional murdercast to scratch the itch.
Review Fix: Why do you think these characters are special?
Cox: The most original part of this project is the semi-scripted format. The courtroom testimony is scripted and recorded in advance, but the jury’s deliberations consist of improvisers hashing it out without lines or prompting. The end result is a complex, authentic series of debates ranging from evidentiary understanding to personal biases to contrasting perceptions of expert testimony. The incredible improvisers I worked with were able to weave a tapestry as genuine as it is intense.
Review Fix: What are your goals for this project?
Cox: I want to start a conversation about the system we take for granted. Trial by jury. A jury of one’s peers. The 12 member jury. We accept these as the most ideal systems for exacting justice in our society, but why? These structures are so ingrained in us we don’t question them. Is a diverse jury more just, or does a jury of “one’s peers” entitle him or her to a homogenous pool? How many people are required to find the fairest verdict? 12? 6? 20? Might professional juries or bench trials be more effective in mitigating wrongful convictions than jury trials? These are the questions I want Deliberations to raise. Hopefully through conversation, we can glean some insight and eventually find solutions.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Cox: Season 2! I’m exhilarated by the plot for Deliberations’ second season, in which a jury uses statement analysis to examine an allegedly false confession.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Cox: Season One takes place against the controversial backdrop of BDSM, a lifestyle rife with misconceptions and pre-formed judgments. The defendant, Samantha Hall, stands trial for murder after her submissive lover asphyxiated by rope during an erotic scene.
For several years I have personally witnessed the way BDSM is negatively portrayed in the media, and it’s made me curious. At a time when sexual orientations, sexual identities, and alternative lifestyles are widely being respected, there lingers judgment when it comes to sadomasochism. Many proudly proclaim their associations with sex positive groups and traditions, but BDSM practitioners who voice their identities are few and far between. I thought Deliberations was the ideal forum to explore commonplace biases against this practice and maybe come to an understanding about where the line is drawn between societally acceptable sexuality and that which is ubiquitously prohibited. However, I will state the impassioned arguments about BDSM that took place during these deliberations surprised even me.