New Bedford Featured in New Netflix Docuseries
New Bedford is featured in an episode of a new Netflix docuseries that is sure to re-open some old wounds while taking a fresh look at a case that thrust the city into the national spotlight.
Trial by Media is a new series focusing on six televised criminal cases "defined by headlines," according to Netflix. That includes episodes focusing on the case of the man who murdered his best friend after the friend confessed his love for him on The Jenny Jones Show; the story of New York City subway shooter Bernard Goetz; the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rob Blagojevich; and New Bedford's infamous "Big Dan's" rape case.
The series, from executive producers George Clooney and Grant Heslove, seeks to focus not only on the cases themselves but also how they were portrayed in the media.
For anyone that was around back in 1983, it was a rough time for New Bedford, which probably hadn't been in as big of a spotlight since the publication of Moby-Dick, yet this time for all the wrong reasons. The city made headlines and nightly news reports across the country for the trial of six men, four accused of gang-raping 21-year-old Cheryl Ann Araujo in Big Dan's Tavern while the other two watched and did not intervene.
The case went on to become the inspiration for the 1988 motion picture The Accused, for which Jodie Foster won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the character based on Araujo.
The Netflix docuseries episode – Episode 5 of Season 1– features not only the details of the case, but also the way the media covered the trial and the reaction of the city's residents to it; classic clips are shown of callers into WBSM's "Open Line" program and turning the case into a debate about immigration and the Portuguese people.
Retired WBSM News Director Jim Phillips appears in the episode as well, giving firsthand accounts from his time covering the Big Dan's trial. The filmmakers also talk with the lawyers and the judge involved with the trial.
The filmmakers filmed at the WBSM and Fun 107 studios late last year for some of the footage shown in the episode, with the modern-day WBSM studio substituting for the old downtown studios.