CBS: Airing Murder Victim’s Last Moments
CBS' "48 Hours" this weekend will air parts of a haunting voicemail recorded during the last minutes of a young woman's life as she was murdered, although the victim's mother says she wishes the show wouldn't.
The Saturday-night crime series (10 p.m. EDT) focuses on the 2012 murder of Weight Watchers executive Danielle Thomas by her live-in boyfriend, lawyer Jason Bohn, in New York. During Bohn's trial, it was revealed that Thomas' phone recorded a four-minute message that includes her screams and pleas for her life.
At one point she says, "Jason, I love you," and there are seven seconds of silence - except for a barking dog - possibly the moment she was strangled.
The recording was played during Bohn's trial earlier this year but because the court proceedings weren't televised, it hasn't been heard publicly outside the courtroom. CBS requested a copy through the Freedom of Information Act because its contents were crucial to the jury's deliberations and were used by both the defense and prosecution, said Susan Zirinsky, senior executive producer of "48 Hours."
"We do not use an enormous amount of it, less than some of the people who put the whole text out," Zirinsky said. "Hearing it is pretty chilling."
Janie Thomas Bright, Thomas' mother and a special education teacher in Danville, Kentucky, said she made it a point to leave the courtroom when the recording was being played during the trial. Bright, who was interviewed for the "48 Hours" story, doesn't want to hear it on television, either.
"My mother and I begged them not to use it," Bright said. "But once the trial was complete it was in the public record."
She said CBS has told them at about which points the recording will be used on Saturday's show, and she plans to mute her television when those moments come up.
"I don't think I can bear to hear her voice," she said.
The recording isn't used extensively, but snippets are sprinkled throughout the story. Bright said she has already heard part of it on a promotion that CBS aired in advance of the show, with Bohn, an Ivy League-educated lawyer, saying, "In five seconds I'm going to let you up, and you need to answer quickly, or else you die."
At another point, he tells his girlfriend: "You're so stupid, you think I'm going to stop. I'm not going to stop."
Bohn's defense team argued that Bohn was mentally ill because he had been abandoned by his mother as a child. The prosecution says this doesn't excuse murder. The recording was used as evidence of Bohn's state of mind. "If no one felt this wasn't the important element in the case, we would not have gone after it," Zirinsky said.
She said CBS does not use the material randomly or gratuitously.
The story itself raises many issues, including the role of mental illness and childhood trauma in criminal actions and the need for people not to follow their instincts. Thomas had reported Bohn to authorities for abusive behavior before the night of the murder but stayed with him, even telling her mother she'd say yes if he asked her to marry him.