Trial by Media – Netflix – Review
Streaming now on Netflix
True crime documentaries really helped put Netflix on the map as a streaming service and this is the latest addition to the canon. The title is one of those “does what it says on the tin” types as they take six distinctly different cases and examine the impact of the media on the judicial process.
It’s an interesting premise but as with all anthologies, some elements are stronger than others. The first episode Talk Show Murder sets out the stall as somewhat sensationalist. It deals with the case of a man who murdered a male friend who brought him on a daytime talk show, The Jenny Jones Show, to declare he had a crush on him. With its analysis of these kinds of shows coupled with explaining the public’s appetite for live court coverage you think you get an inkling where it is going. But with six different directors manning the half dozen very different stories it never really does get a consistent rhythm.
While episodes about the likes of Bernard Goetz, The Subway Vigilante who shot four black men on the New York Subway, or the extremely shocking episode called Big Dan’s Tavern. which deals with how a gang rape was handled in the press, are very affecting and will definitely spark outrage and debate, not all the cases featured have this impact.
The episode called Blago about Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich who faced corruption charges and whose trial strategy was to turn himself into a celebrity is more mind-boggling than shocking. While King Richard about HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, who was charged with fraud and money laundering and decided to mount an outlandish defence that saw him resort to co-hosting a religious talk show, could just as easily be a show about trial strategy as media influence.
Meanwhile, 41 Shots, dealing with the case of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant who was shot 41 times by four white NYPD officers will have you questioning the whole judicial system since the judge in the case allowed for a change in venue due to racial tensions. His story is told here by his mother and you can’t help but feel for her as she tries to ensure that her son is remembered as something more than another shooting statistic at the hands of officers.
For most people, there will definitely be a few episodes that don’t appeal to them. And perhaps threading them all throughout a series under the umbrella title, to more broadly demonstrate the fact they were trying to make would have been better. The strong episodes here are so good and thought-provoking that it only serves to highlight the weaknesses of the less engaging ones.
While this is a solid idea, as a series it would work better with consistently strong rather than just sensational cases. But it is still a worthwhile look for fans of true crime or just those who have an interest in the inner workings of the system.