Louis Theroux unveils documentary about married professor’s affair with non-verbal patient

Louis Theroux has announced a forthcoming documentary about a professor who was criminally convicted of sexually assaulting a disabled man she’d been hired to help.

The documentary maker is set to deliver the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival on Wednesday (23 August).

Ahead of the anticipated address, Theroux unveiled details of a film about the case of Anna Stubblefield, a convicted academic, on Tuesday (22 August).

According to Deadline, Tell Them You Love Me will follow the events that led to a criminal trial that divided many.

In 2015, 41-year-old Stubblefield, a married white professor, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a disabled, non-verbal Black man, Derrick Johnson, who was 11 years her junior.

Stubblefield was known as a respected academic and disability advocate when she met Johnson in 2009.

Johnson, who has cystic fibrosis, was diagnosed as having severe cognitive disabilities in his early childhood and had been non-verbal his entire life.

The professor, who spoke passionately of the importance of the ability to communicate as part of the human experience, disagreed with the diagnosis and told Johnson’s family that she could help him.

Johnson began to be able to communicate using a keyboard with Stubblefield’s help, which thrilled his family.

However, in 2011, two years after they began working together, Stubblefield told Johnson’s family that they had “fallen in love”.

Louis Theroux to launch documentary about married professor’s affair with non-verbal disabled patient (Getty, Essex County Correctional Facility)
Louis Theroux to launch documentary about married professor’s affair with non-verbal disabled patient (Getty, Essex County Correctional Facility)

As reported in the New York Times, when Derrick Johnson’s brother Wesley asked Stubblefield whether she’d taken advantage of him, Derrick began typing (with the professor’s help): ‘‘No one’s been taken advantage of. I’ve been trying to seduce Anna for years, and she resisted valiantly.’’

The controversial relationship between Stubblefield and Johnson led to one of the most divisive US criminal trials of the decade, challenging perceptions of disability and the nature of consent.

Stubblefield was sentenced to 12 years in prison for raping Johnson. After serving two years of her custodial sentence, her conviction was overturned and she was released.

Theroux’s film will explore whether their story is a “misunderstood love affair or a tale of sexual assault and predatory behaviour.”

A project from Theroux’s company Mindhouse Productions, Tell Them You Love Me is set to be one of its most high-profile releases.

Theroux follows figures such as Emily Maitlis (2022), Jack Thorne (2021) and Michaela Coel (2018) who have delivered the MacTaggart lecture in recent years.

He is set to discuss the “challenges facing broadcasters in the multi-platform universe, how he has maintained longevity and relevance, and the reasons for both fear and optimism in a world beset by populism, social media, AI and virality”.

Tell Them You Love Me will be available on Sky Documentaries and NOW in November.

Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673)