Sunday, July 26, 2009

Drawn To Murder

I'm not a big fan of true crime. The only show I ever followed was the one Paul Winfield narrated and to me his voice was always the star of the show. But last night, bored, all I could surf up was the CBS 48 Hours Mystery. It turned out to be a powerful and frightening show. It was called Drawn To Murder.

A fifteen year old boy, a boy who draws horrorific sketches of women being mutilated (among many many other types of sketches) lives on the edge of town. In the field he crosses to get to the school bus he sees what he believes is a dummy. In fact it's a woman's body. He goes to school. She has been terribly mutilated. The cops show up. The lead cop decides he's got the killer. On the spot. They take the kid in and question him for something like fifteen hours non-stop. Good cop bad cop maternal cop etc. Pound pound pound. He didn't do it he says. The kid never wavers.

The cop is relentless despite the fact that over time the other two detectives working the case come to believe the kid is innocent. There is absolutely no evidence that ties the kid to the murder. None. The cop then decides that he'll "shock" the kid into confessing. The cop comes up with this ludicrous idea that the kid murdered the woman because he's angry at his mother for dying. They dummy up a fake newspaper and send it to the kid saying that he'll soon be arrested for murder one. There are cops all over town waiting for him to freak out. At the graveyard where his mother is buried. At a friend's house. At school. Seriously this is one of the goofiest damn ideas anybody's ever EVER come up with. One cop said he couldn't keep a straight face it was so stupid.

Enter this hired gun forensic psychologist. He looks as if he spends more time in front of the mirror than most models do. A real fancy pants. He is interviewed and hands out the biggest pile of Freudian bullshit I've ever heard in my life. He says he's absolutely sure the kid it. No question.

This is just the start of the story.

The kid goes into the navy, tries to start a new life for himself. He doesn't want to live in Fort Collins again after he gets out because the cop'll be on him for sure. He's now in his mid-twenties, honorably discharged. The cop flies to California and arrests him and drags him back.

By this time the female detective who questioned the cop has been demoted back to patrol. The other detective whose scorn for the cop is clear quits. But the cop and the DA team (a really stupid young woman and a would-be hotshot (but very bush league) man go to court. There is no evidence. The hired gun psychologist comes back and they go through the drawings with the jury and the hired gun says this is the killer right here and he's convicted.

The kid serves nine years. He's appealed twice for a new trial. No way. Getting a new trial is virtually impossible. But a young female lawyer decides to help him. She gets a a real hot shot older criminal attorney to help her. They plead the kid's case hoping the judge will grant a new trial.

Very interesting trial. We see all the stuff the cop kept from turning over. The stupid DA kept saying who else could it be. Well, there was a doctor who was a convicted sex offender (he had a hidden camera set up in his bathroom so he could film women going to the pot) who lived right across the street from the field where the body was found and then there was an angry boy friend whose DNA was later found inside the dead woman's underpants--but who else could it possibly be? Gee, it just had to be the kid. The cop looked at absolutely nobody else. Ever One piece of evidence after another showed that the kid could not possibly have been the killer. This went on and on.

The judge won't even let the DA testify. He grants a new trial and releases the kid on the spot. The cop had been called out of town for family business and wasn't at the hearing. Yeah right family business.

Remember when those young law students at Northwestern (with the help of Governor Ryan) got several men on the Illinois Death Row freed with DNA testing?

More than 230 people have been freed from prison because of DNA evidence. Estimates are that more than 100,000 prisoners have been railroaded into prison. The kid is suing the cop and the DA. I hope these two bastards end up in a homeless shelter. I'm assuming the young woman DA will find her natural calling and find work at a Clinique counter.


Dave Zeltserman said...

HBO a few years ago showed an Oscar winning documentary, I think it was called Murder on a Sunday Afternoon, and it was outrageous. The police needed to close a murder of a tourist, and they grabbed a black kid off the street that they had no reason or evidence to suspect, and they forced a confession out of him by taking him into the wood and threatening to kill him if he didn't sign the confession. This was a kid who was a good student, never had any issues with the law. Fortunately he was given a public defender who gave a damn, and this lawyer ended up solving the murder so he could get his client off (wasn't that hard--police could've done it if they tried).

Todd Mason said...

48 HOURS MYSTERY, as they call it these days, usually is the least irresponsible and only slightly hoked up of the true-crime shows, or the children of 60 MINUTES (unless we count PBS's newsmagazines as such...NOW and FRONTLINE/WORLD average a bit better than 60 MINUTES).

RJR said...

Paul Windfield rocked City Confidential, Ed.