’48 Hours’: was Atlanta murder case shaped by reality TV cameras?

Victoria Rickman and William James Carter. CREDIT: Cox Media Group

Posted Friday, November 10, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

In 2013, East Atlanta mom Victoria Rickman killed her boyfriend , shooting him multiple times, claiming self defense after he allegedly raped her.

But prosecutors later charged her with murder.

The twist that CBS’s “48 Hours” will explore Saturday night at 10 p.m.: fedora-wearing Atlanta Detective Summer Benton was being trailed by a camera crew from ID reality TV show “Inside Homicide.” The defense argued that the reality show cameras influenced Benton’s decision making.

Prosecutors said she acted in anger, not fear, against Will Carter.

Erin Moriaty, the “48 Hours” reporter with the show since 1990, talked to Benton and Carter’s parents, who spoke for the first time to media.

“It was 5:30 in the morning and the phone rings twice, you know that’s not good,” William Carter told Moriarty about being informed that his son was dead.  Benton told him it appeared at first glance to be a self-defense case. “I about puked,” Carter says. “I said, ‘no, it’s not, either.”

Benton, who denied that reality show cameras influenced her thought process in any way, told Moriarty that the minute she arrived at the crime scene, she saw no signs of a struggle that might indicate self defense. “Nothing looked like what is should have looked like,” Benton says.

In an interview Friday, Moriarty said she initially saw the “Inside Homicide” episode, which aired before trial, and thought Rickman was guilty for sure. “It colored my viewpoint going into it,” she said.

But when she spoke with the defense and heard about the issue of pre-trial publicity and reality TV, she thought it would actually make a compelling one-hour episode.

“I feel until someone is convicted, we should always embrace the concept of innocent until proven guilty. The burden is on the prosecution,” she said.

Rickman’s defense attorney told Moriarty there was “an immediate drop off of people willing to help her with her defense after the episode aired. It definitely affected the trial.” The issue of pre-trial publicity delayed the trial significantly, Moriarty said.

Moriarty, who spent time observing the trial in Atlanta this past summer, said Benton made some statements at the crime scene to cameras that weren’t based on fact at the time, such as observing that she thought Rickman had reloaded her gun. Benton regretted doing that. At the same time, she was surprised the jury came back with a guilty charge within an hour after a two-week trial.

She felt like she was able to provide both the defense and prosecution a fair shake during the episode so viewers can decide for themselves.

Moriarty observed that the case had a female lead detective and female lead attorneys on both sides, which was unusual. (The judge, she said, was male.) And she said Sheila Ross is “an amazing prosecutor,” which helped her case.

Summer Benton earned her fedora after closing her first homicide case. She starred in the docu-series “Inside Homicide” for ID. CREDIT: TLC

RELATED: AJC in-depth coverage of the Rickman case

RELATED: Atlanta Detective Summer Benton on TLC reality show “Women of Homicide”

RELATED: TLC’s show moves to ID and becomes “Inside Homicide.” 

TV PREVIEW

“48 Hours,” 10 p.m. Saturday, November 11, 2017 on CBS


View Comments 0