What We Can Learn From True Crime Documentaries

True crime documentaries are more than just entertaining – they do a service by examining criminal justice procedures and questioning their validity, especially in capital offense cases. For example, a major theme is looking at what happens when a defendant is convicted and sentenced to life in prison or death, and then it turns out that eyewitness testimony is conflicting, or evidence has been withheld, or counsel has been ineffective and made mistakes in defense.

Anyone charged with a serious crime needs the best defense available. The seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. have extensive experience and know to look out for problems in court procedures. We offer a free consultation to examine the issues in your case and determine what we can do to help.

Errors the Documentaries Reveal

The following are some popular true crime documentaries that point out what can happen when justice goes astray:

1) Serial
This pop culture podcast phenomenon examines the case of Adnan Syed, charged for the murder of Hae Min Lee. The ACLU has noted disturbing mistakes in Adnan’s defense. The most glaring is that the defense never presented to the jury the evidence that Adnan had a credible alibi the night Lee was murdered. A classmate of Adnan saw him at the library at the very time the murder happened miles away. Unfortunately, the letter with this alibi information remained in the defense lawyer’s file.  The lawyer never requested the video from the library cameras and never interviewed the classmate to follow up. When the reporter from Serial looked into this issue 14 years after the crime, the library video tape was gone.

Adnan Syed was convicted of murdering Lee, but he is now back in court seeking a new trial with new evidence brought to light by the podcast.

2) The Thin Blue Line
The Thin Blue Line examined the incarceration of Randall Adams for the 1976 murder of a Texas police officer. Errol Morris’s 1988 film found new evidence and uncovered facts proving that Adams was innocent and that the real killer was actually a teenaged drifter named David Harris who had spent the evening with Adams.

The Thin Blue Line helped exonerate Adams and helped police nab the real killer, but only after Adams had served a dozen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The film examines the potential consequences that arise when law enforcement officials zero in on one suspect and work to build a case against that person while ignoring any contradictory evidence.

3) The Jinx
New York real estate scion Robert Durst had a privileged upbringing and was alleged to have a connection to a series of murders, as well as to the disappearance of his first wife. HBO’s The Jinx provided an in-depth look at Durst’s odd behavior and quirky personality traits, while also bringing to light crucial new evidence that eventually paved the way for authorities to revive at least one murder case associated with Durst.  The Jinx explored the role of privilege and how Durst’s high-priced legal defense team helped him evade serious criminal charges even when he admitted to having dismembered a person’s body. Durst’s team secured a plea deal that gave him a five-year prison sentence on relatively minor charges of bond jumping and evidence tampering.
4) Making a Murderer 
Netflix’s 10-part true crime docuseries Making A Murderer examined Steven Avery’s guilt or innocence in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. The series brings out how tenuous a guarantee “the right to a fair trial” actually is, examining the possibility that Avery was falsely convicted and imprisoned twice in his lifetime. However, his defense attorneys extended care and attentiveness, pleading for justice and certitude, and this contrasted to the dismissive treatment doled out by local media, law enforcement and the district attorney’s office. The show brought out the failures of the justice system, including police and prosecutorial misconduct, and that these unfortunately are not uncommon in many cases.

These true-crime shows bring up the importance of having a defense attorney who is effective, alert and fighting for the client’s rights. The shows also point out that this is not always the case.  There are instances when lawyers were drunk or asleep while clients were on trial for their lives, and, in appeals, the mistakes of lawyers are charged to the defendants.  As a result, eighty capital defendants have lost or risked the loss of important federal court review because their lawyers missed their filing deadlines. According to the ACLU, in a thin State’s case the difference between guilt and innocence rests almost entirely on the quality of the defense lawyer.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

If you or a loved one is charged with a serious crime, your life could depend on the quality of your criminal defense attorney. Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. The law places a heavy burden on the government, and you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. Whether your criminal law case is seemingly straightforward or highly complicated, we can help.  We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense.  We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process. We explain all elements and processes of the case and develop an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.

Don’t delay — contact us for help today at 630-305-0222 if you have been accused of any criminal charges. Our Illinois criminal defense lawyers represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, Illinois, and the greater Chicagoland area.  Your free initial consultation can be scheduled at our office.