Once the trials had concluded, I began interviewing people connected with the Montstream family: relatives, fellow church members, co-workers, and neighbors. I also interviewed investigators, prosecutors, and other people associated with the criminal justice system's response to John Montstream's murder. The Aftershocks exhibit consists of results from the earliest interviews I conducted. The tone set in those meetings represents a core theme that has reverberated throughout my research: Betrayal.
For many members of the Montstream family's church and social circles -- including those who frequently attended the trials -- People v.Annette Montstream and People v. Michael Northrup -- two murder proceedings -- were the first direct contact they had ever had with the criminal justice system. Most of them had never so much as received a traffic ticket. While many of the people I talked with were engaged in creative occupations, their personal style was quite conservative. They went about their lives comfortable in the knowledge that their government could maintain order and was up to the task of holding people responsible for violating important laws, such as the laws against killing someone.
Criminal justice system interviewees -- whatever their political party affiliation -- shared the civilians' faith that the legal process results in a fair and just outcome. For many, the Montstream case shook that assumption. At the very least, it led to a tendency to couch their assumptions with conditional terms: "frequently," "usually," or "often."