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Netflix’s Tiger King Wasn’t ‘Even Close to What We Saw,’ Says Juror in Joe Exotic Case


The new Netflix docuseries Tiger King has a lot of fans, but not everyone is giving it high marks. Case in point: one of the jurors who convicted show subject Joseph Maldonado-Passage (a.k.a Joe Exotic) in a murder-for-hire and animal abuse case.

The Joe Exotic trial was alluded to over the course of the series, but was given focus in the seventh episode. Juror Kristin answered viewer questions on the Law&Crime Network Live Q&A. She said that Tiger King didn’t show all of the evidence.

It wasn’t “even close to what we saw in court,” she said. That included a recording in which the defendant complained that the first man he hired to kill rival Carole Baskin ran off with his money, so he wanted to try again.

Part of the show’s legacy (at least in the short term) is some renewed skepticism of Maladonado-Passage’s conviction. Kristin pointedly criticized the show for its depiction of the evidence.

“I think that the docuseries did a big disservice to the way that criminal justice is supposed to be carried out,” she said. “It makes the jury look like we were incompetent and that we convicted him on basically nothing when it wasn’t like that at all. I really wished that they would’ve been more fair with what they showed, but it is what it is, and all we can do is hope people understand that that’s not exactly the way a trial is.”

Her take: Tiger King was more of a “docudrama” than a documentary. If  “people could see more, they could understand more” about the case, she said. Kristin said there was nothing in the show that changed her mind on the verdict.

Jurors took about three-and-a-half hours to deliberate, she said. One of the jurors didn’t want to initially convict on two counts related to the illegal sale of tiger cubs but she changed her mind, according to this account. Kristin also recounted a woman questioning why Maldonado-Passage would want to hire Allen Glover, who had a drug and drinking problem. Kristin asserted, however, that that’s exactly who you would hire because that person would do anything for money.

If there’s anything Kristin and some viewers of Tiger King have in common, it’s a lack of sympathy for Maldonado-Passage’s target Baskin.

“She wasn’t a complete victim in the whole thing,” Kristin argued, saying that Baskin antagonized the defendant, even during testimony.

Maldonado-Passage plotted the target’s death after she tried to run him out of business and beat him in a lawsuit. By every single account, he hated her with a burning passion, and went as far as to float a theory that she murdered her wealthy husband Don Lewis in 1997. Kristin said, however, that jurors didn’t hear about Lewis during the trial, and said she didn’t think the theory would’ve played a role in the verdict.

At this point, it’s probably redundant to even discuss what she thought about Maldonado-Passage’s testimony.She said the defendant was much quieter than on the show, but did give his attorneys a “run for their money” because he’d talk more than they wanted him to and he slipped in extra information.

“He is not a very good fake cryer,” she said. There were no tears, so it was obvious he wasn’t actually crying, she asserted.

Tiger King (and a lot of the accompanying media coverage) focused on the interweaving, complex machinations of zookeepers, but only explicitly zeroed-in on animal welfare toward the very end. For Kristin, the animal abuse was in fact the “worst part of the trial.” Maldonado-Passage was convicted of killing five tigers (he construed this as euthanasia). Kristin described being affected by the testimony of Erik Cowie, a zookeeper for Joe Exotic. This witness was very close to the tigers, and cried when discussing the death of one of them, Kristin said.

The juror, who did not participate in the sentencing, said she believed Maldonado-Passage’s 22-year sentence was fair.

Asked by a reporter on Wednesday about whether he’d consider pardoning Joe Exotic, President Donald Trump said he’d take a look the case. It wouldn’t be the first time Trump went out of his way to grand clemency to a well-known person.

Kristin suggested, however, that the president didn’t know about the case and was only answering to move on to the next question. Nonetheless, she did say that she respected the process, and that she would accept it if Maldonado-Passage received a pardon or had his sentence shortened.

[Screengrab via Netflix UK & Ireland]

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