Oppo Research Meets the Hillside Stranglers

CAPITOL WEEKLY PODCAST: Longtime politics oppo research specialist Joe Rodota has lately turned his skills toward historical events and storytelling, first with a book on the Watergate complex, The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address, and now with a new podcast, Hillside: The Investigation and Trial of the Hillside Strangler.

This is not Rodota’s first look at this case: he dug into Attorney General John Van De Kamp’s handling of the trial during the 1990 campaign for governor of California. A decision from Van De Kamp’s office nearly freed defendant Angelo Buono, and resulted in one of the most brutal campaign ads ever unleashed on California TV.

Rodota interviewed more than 40 people connected to the case – detectives, friends and families of the victims, defense attorneys and prosecutors, journalists, and the presiding judge – and unearthed new documents from archives and private hands.

He sat down with Capitol Weekly’s John Howard and Tim Foster to talk about the political aspects of the AG’s handling of the case, the role the murders played in the 1990 campaign for governor and about why he chose to pursue the topic in a podcast.

Rodota also tells us about his upcoming live event, on October 1 – Hillside Live: Inside the Podcast; A conversation with host and author Joseph Rodota, moderated by KCRA anchor Edie Lambert.  And, as always, we tell you who had The Worst Week in California Politics.

:45 How did you get connected to the Hillside Stranglers case?

4:15 The lingering questions

5:25 Meeting Darcy O’Brien, who wrote THE book on the case

7:51 How do you run against an Attorney General in a tough-on-crime environment?

9:00 The Feinstein campaign

9:38 The ad

13:08 What broke the Hillside Strangler case?

15:33 Paul Mitchell’s Dad, Jim Mitchell, encounters a Strangler

18:14 A victim-centered approach

19:37 Prosecutor Elizabeth Baron

20:54 Michelle Hawkins, forensic investigator

21:49 “I wanted to do this because I needed to help her”

23:13 interviewing Juror #1

25:11 Daryl Gates’ personal files

29:48 Did the Strangler case sink Van De Kamp’s candidacy?

33:53 The Los Angeles Times story that wasn’t

36:26 Now also an NBC documentary: Hillside Strangler: Devil in Disguise

37:52 Live event in Sacramento, October 1, 2022 at The Sofia

39:41 #WWCA


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