“I come across as very stoic, indifferent, and cold to strangers.”
June 9, 2016 4:20 PM   Subscribe

On the Inside Part I: [Reply All] [Podcast] For years, Paul Modrowski has been writing a blog from inside a maximum security prison. Only thing is, he was arrested when he was 18 and has never seen the internet. Sruthi Pinnamaneni reaches out to him with one small question that alters the course of her next year.

On the Inside, Part II
On the Inside, Part III
On the Inside, Part IV

The Facts: [wiki]
In late 1992 Modrowski went to reside with Robert Faraci and his wife Rose, after allegedly struggling through relational issues with his family. On January 18, 1993, a woman and her daughter discovered a human body missing its head, left arm and right hand, along the railroad tracks in Barrington, Illinois. Through a note found in the victim's clothing containing two phone numbers, the corpse was identified as Dean Fawcett, who had gone missing in late December 1992. On April 22, 1993, Robert Faraci was arrested for the murder of Dean Fawcett. Afterwards Faraci and his wife alleged Modrowski committed the crime. They also named Modrowski as the perpetrator in the nearby Brown's Chicken massacre, which had occurred on January 8, 1993. Based on these accusations, members of the Palatine Task force arrested Modrowski on April 28, 1993, charging him as a second suspect in the Dean Fawcett murder. Modrowski alleges he was held without legal representation for 30 hours and beaten by law enforcement before a false confession was produced on his behalf.
posted by Fizz (15 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
There was/is a similar blog written by a British lifer, John "Ben" Gunn, who was incarcerated for 32 years from the age of 14. He's out on licence now, and, in some ways, his struggles of dealing with a world he's never known as an adult are even more poignant than the frustrations he experienced as a prisoner. He has at least some degree of freedom now, but there can be no doubt that such a sentence is for life in every significant sense. The brutality of doing that to someone for a single terrible thing they did as a damaged child makes me ashamed of the country I live in and the legal system I, however tangentially to Mr Gunn's struggles, work within.

I will dig into your post properly now, because I've only peaked really, but I thought that the parallels and differences may be interesting to others.
posted by howfar at 4:43 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was like a mini-Serial. Really well done. Suspenseful with great characters.

Like Serial, I came away sort of undecided about the whole thing, but I think Sruthi's closing thoughts were as good a conclusion as one could make.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:44 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

That is: the trial was bizarre, the whole Modrowski as a heartless killer without mention of his autism was bizarre, but also he probably still helped Bob kill Dean Fawcett.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:46 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just finished listening to this a few hours ago and I have been reading his blog off and on for the past week. The blog is compelling—it's a shame he stopped writing, although his reasons are understandable.

Don't want to give anything away, but the last couple of minutes made me reconsider the conclusion I was headed toward.
posted by she's not there at 4:48 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

It definitely has the feel of a mini-Serial, but that's ok. It was engaging, well-researched, and you wanted more. I walked away having learned something new about a little bit of crime-history. That last interview though, wow.
posted by Fizz at 5:30 PM on June 9, 2016

That last interview is one of the most astonishing moments of tape I've heard.
posted by mthomps00 at 6:38 PM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Reply All On The Inside on Fanfare: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
posted by jazon at 8:17 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooo, the new episode is out. I've really enjoyed it so far. Without having heard the last episode, speaking as a former mental health professional, there are places where the characteristics of autism and psychopathy overlap. (Not, to be clear, that they are at all similar, just that sometimes one can be misdiagnosed as another.) I found myself going back and forth about my gut reaction to Modrowski while listening to him speak.
posted by threeturtles at 8:55 PM on June 9, 2016

Not finished yet, but for the record, in that creepy violent message to his girlfriend mentioned in part 4, I'm pretty sure Paul was actually referencing the Joker from Tim Burton's Batman (1989).

So weird. Some moments, Paul seems like he could have been any of the awkward guys I grew up around, on the south side of Chicago in the late 80s and early 90s. Other moments, he seems entirely alien. I mean, I can't imagine the circumstances in which anyone I know would have torn up the girlfriend's house and stabbed her family's dog, but awkwardly and inappropriately quoting a Nicholson character while nervous? Sure, I knew plenty of those guys. A few of them were King Diamond fans too.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 10:52 PM on June 9, 2016

I normally find Reply All a bit hit-and-miss; PJ and Alex sometimes come across as a little too... I dunno, pleased with themselves? But I really, really enjoyed (if that's the right word) this series. It's clearly patterned after (or at least hugely influenced by) Serial - and, honestly, I enjoyed it more than the second series of Serial; as others have said, the ending of final episode in particular were quite the thing.
posted by parm at 2:13 AM on June 10, 2016

I thought this was a good series but stretched out a bit longer than it needed to be. Sruthi Pinnamaneni does a very nice job and though I think other things she has done are better than this one - possibly because this was meant to be about writing a blog from prison and it turned into something else entirely. I do like Reply All and I'm glad this story done so that hopefully the 'regular' episodes can return.

A bunch of people here, on FanFare, and elsewhere have mentioned the Big Thing at the end. I've listened a few times now. What is the big thing? Is it just that he is riled up about the digging Sruthi did to mention King Diamond and then the heated speech about how his life is over and he's not going to confess? If so I don't understand what is so amazing about it. Was there something I didn't hear in that "I recorded a minute of the sound of the room" part? I'm not saying the thing(s) people are hearing isn't a big deal or astonishing, but I'm not hearing it at all. I guess answering would be a spoiler which is why it's not already spelled out here.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:37 AM on June 10, 2016

Yeah, my conclusion was that for the murder, maybe, maybe not, but that there's almost certainly more that never made it to court. The bit about bouncing checks not being a good motive struck me in this way. Sure, fair enough, it's not worth killing someone over a bounced check, but did the victim know about other activities that would make a reasonable motive? We've got no way of knowing, but there was a cloud of violence following this bunch of people around. And convicting someone for murder for loaning a car is probably about as close as you can get to convicting someone for being immersed in that cloud.

I think the 'big thing' at the end is the smiling after the tirade. The interview is an act for Paul: he's pretty explicit about that at the front of the meeting, talking about how he has to put on a face to relate to other humans. The tirade is an act, too, the sort of thing you'd see in a movie, right? The smile is an extra little lifting of the mask.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:13 AM on June 10, 2016

I think the 'big thing' at the end is the smiling after the tirade. The interview is an act for Paul: he's pretty explicit about that at the front of the meeting, talking about how he has to put on a face to relate to other humans. The tirade is an act, too, the sort of thing you'd see in a movie, right? The smile is an extra little lifting of the mask.

If that's the case I guess maybe I did get it because that all made sense to me. But don't we all do that all the time to some degree? The tone of voice, facial expressions, and phrases we use are all just trying to act like what's been modeled to us. And since he's explicit that it's an act and hard for him does that mean it's not true? I can easily see myself smiling and saying "how did you like that for an answer" because what came out of my mouth was what was in my head and it sounded the way I wanted it to.

I don't really know what I think about the case or his guilt because there's a lot that wasn't told in the podcast and the ending didn't change anything for me.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:57 AM on June 10, 2016

It's interesting that after Pinnamaneni reveals that the blogger is in prison, Vogt asks "What did he do?" rather than the more neutral "What is he in for?"
posted by layceepee at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well after having listened to the final episode, I'm left even more ambivalent. I'm with the psychologist in that the reported childhood stuff is straight up autistic, but that of course doesn't mean he's not also a violent asshole and maybe a murderer.

His final interview was...odd. I feel like he was definitely evasive and I wonder if his anger outburst was meant as distraction, a way of avoiding the questions. Because genuine anger from someone with autism isn't typically that quickly shut off and tends to spiral rather than go quickly back to blank or smiling. I'm not an expert, certainly, but that's my experience.

So I dunno. Definitely it sounds like he didn't get a fair trial and the jury and judge were prejudiced by not being informed of his autism diagnosis and therefore judging him so much on his lack of emotional expression.
posted by threeturtles at 1:03 AM on June 11, 2016

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