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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Highly recommended — this is one of the most fascinating and disturbing documentaries I have ever seen. It shows what happens when a seemingly civic-minded professor of journalism sets out under the banner of the Innocence Project to see that justice is done in a murder case. In reality, the professor is a sociopathic media huckster with a book deal and Hollywood movie in mind. He is eventually revealed as a complete fraud, and his helpful student volunteers as a pack of unprincipled idiots, but not before they have collectively succeeded in getting the guilty man released from prison, and framing an innocent man for the crime. The twists and turns in this terrible tale are too convoluted to get into here. Suffice it to say, this is an astonishing, meticulously documented and brilliantly crafted documentary about what happens when an uncritical media, disinterested justice system, and various conscienceless manipulators get together and turn justice on its head. Filmmaking at its most brilliant and most effective.
  • Greetings again from the darkness. The concept of "the scales of justice" refers to what is right and just. It's a lofty and worthy goal, and one that we U.S. citizens grow up learning is the foundation of our legal system. Sometimes, however, the wheels fall off and the system gets off-track. Co-directors Shawn Rech and Brandon Kinder explore one such quite infamous case.

    Here's a quick synopsis: Cops arrest suspect for a double murder (1982). Suspect found guilty and sentenced to death (1983). Just prior to execution, additional information is submitted and the suspect is freed (1999). Another suspect is charged, found guilty and sent to prison. Fifteen years later, charges against the second man are dropped and he is released from prison. Evidence points to original suspect, who has been pardoned and cannot be re-tried.

    The above phrase "additional information" is the key to the film. Northwestern University Professor David Protess and a group of his journalism students, working under the auspice of the "Innocence Project", set out to cast doubt on the guilt of Anthony Porter – the prisoner just days from execution. The students' work with Private Investigator Paul Ciolini yields contradictory witnesses and a confession from another man, Alstory Simon. The result of their findings gets Porter released and turns him and themselves into media stars, while also leading to the state of Illinois banning the death penalty.

    The film is exceedingly well documented and researched, and provides interviews from detectives, lawyers and Mr. Simon, among others. It's a procedural documentary that questions the very procedures of the justice system … shooting holes and raising red flags on the steps and a multitude of people involved with the cases over the years. Unfortunately, we don't get any account directly from Professor Protess (since released by Northwestern), but that's likely due to the inexcusably shoddy work from his group and his endless grandstanding since getting Porter released.

    We all know there are truth-minded journalists, but it's quite frightening when those on the other end of the spectrum can so easily gain power and influence … especially when teamed up with a less-than-scrupulous private investigator who proudly spouts that the rules don't apply to him.

    This is a very interesting and detailed look at different personality types, legal procedures, media influence and the role of truth and justice. The film begins with a very unusual disclaimer stating the film studio "does not guarantee the accuracy of the content". The name of the studio? Whole Truth Films.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This stunning and mind-boggling documentary, directed by Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber, and inspired by " A Miscarriage of Justice" by William Crawford, made my "blood boil" and my "skin crawl".

    The film initially focuses on a team of "concerned" citizens and professionals, in conjunction with the media, who have worked successfully to obtain the release of a death row inmate (Anthony Porter), just 48 hours before his scheduled execution. However, there's a major twist to this movie, as we find out that this same team appears to have coerced and used intimidation to elicit a false confession from another innocent man (Alstory Simon), regarding a double murder in Chicago's Washington Park.

    This team would consist of, at the time, Northwestern Journalism Professor David Protess, his Innocence Project along with a group of overly zealous but terribly naïve journalism students, Private Investigator Paul Ciolino, and attorney Jack Rimland. How this team reportedly used the media, state officials, and the courts to pull this off was absolutely amazing.

    The consequences of all this would prove to be dire as Simon would sit in jail for years. Thank goodness for attorneys James Sotos and Terry Skl, who took Simon's case and had to battle the system to try and get some sort of justice for him.

    Overall, this documentary can get somewhat confusing as so many names and situations are involved, but, for me, it was definitely worth the time, as the movie just astounded me. Just when you think you've seen it all, you realize you haven't.
  • A cautionary tale that everyone involved in the criminal justice system has the potential to be susceptible to biases; even those with the purest and most altruistic motives.