The movie presents chilling portraits of evil. Two career criminals commit capital crimes against innocent victims who are described with respect and sympathy. After setting fire to the crime scene, the murderers flee but waiting police capture them almost immediately. Viewers learn the murderers' backgrounds but are left to weigh factors that might have contributed to wilful depravity.
The documentary suggests that police could have done more to avoid the deadly outcome. For almost 30 minutes, police observed the victims' home but took no actions. They chose not to enter the house, despite knowing the woman and her two children were captive. A victims' relative thought police intended to keep an intact perimeter to ensure capture of the criminals. Rescuing victims seemed secondary.
Whether police actions were excusable or not is uncertain but it is certain that officials refused to be accountable for their decisions. Transcripts of conversations involving police were almost entirely redacted and, according to the filmmakers, officials would not respond to family letters nor make comments that were anything more than tasteless self-congratulations.
Ultimately, the program turns to capital punishment. Suffering family members take positions in the film in favour while other voices counter the arguments. This not a definitive examination of the death penalty but filmmakers note that a possibility of death sentences, while failing to deter the killers, was a complicating factor at trial. But for it, the case would have been resolved in weeks instead of years.
The film is a balanced examination of the crime, the criminals, the victims and the justice institutions. I was intrigued also by the subtle review of religion. It offered comfort to victims but was shown as a contributor to the personal disintegration of a youthful killer whose adoptive parents had refused him recommended therapy, opting instead for bible camp, hoping prayer would be corrective.
A solid and moving effort.
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