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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Watch 10 Documentaries Every Law Student Or Any One Interested In Crime Should See

Just as the practice of law 

isn’t at all like law school

real crimes aren’t at all like 

the ones depicted in 

movies and TV series. The 

people are a lot less 

attractive, and the motives 

aren’t nearly as

 complicated. Things tend to boil down to money, sex, 

or power. The best documentaries bring a deft touch to 

these human stories that forms them into a narrative but 

never loses sight of the fact that these atrocious things 

happened to real people, and that real people have to 

pay the price or go free. They should be required 

viewing for law students to help them understand 

what’s really waiting for them when they get out of 

school. They’re as close as you can get to the real 

thing. Watch These 10 Documentaries


1. The StaircaseThe Staircase is a riveting 

police procedural and courtroom thriller that plays like a 

tightly written mystery. Writer-director Jean-Xavier de 

Lestrade had ridiculous access to author Michael 

Peterson, who in 2001 was arraigned for the murder of 

his wife, discovered in a pool of blood at the base of the 

staircase in their family home. Filmed as a documentary 

for French TV, this riveting eight-part film runs six 

hours but barely feels like two.



2. The Thin Blue Line: Errol Morris’s documentaries 

never fail to illuminate some of the darker and more 

compelling parts of the human experience — The Fog of 

War is a brilliant example of how hubris leads nations 

to battle — and The Thin Blue Line is fantastic for the

 way it examines the real-life application of the law. 

Revolving around the murder of a Dallas police officer 

and the subsequent investigation, the documentary 

demonstrates how easy it is for the wrong man (or men) 

to become implicated in a crime they didn’t commit if 

the legal system turns against them.



3. Cocaine Cowboys: The Miami drug wars of the 1970s 

and 1980s were terrifying for the way they gave 

organized crime an even stronger foothold in the area

 and pushed law enforcement to the limit in their 

attempts to stem the flow of coke into the country. This

 incisive documentary also explores how the town 

benefitted economically from the additional cash, as 

dirty money was laundered to fund a variety of modern 

landmarks. Granted, it’s not as if fictional films make 

this life look like a non-stop party: sooner or later, the 

feds always come calling. But this doc gets even closer 

to the action by offering interviews with former 

criminals and cops, putting the viewer in the middle.




4. Deliver Us From Evil: Critically lauded for its skillful 

execution of a difficult story, Deliver Us From Evil tells 

the tale of Father Oliver O’Grady, a Catholic priest who 

molested and raped a number of young children from 

the 1970s to the 1990s and who was moved to various 

parishes around the country by church officials in an 

attempt to cover up the crimes. A heartbreaking, 

devastating look at the cancer that’s eating the Catholic 

Church in America.




5. The Trials of Darryl Hunt: In 1984, Darryl Hunt, a black 

man in North Carolina, was convicted of raping the 

white Deborah Sykes. There was just one problem: he

 didn’t do it. He served almost 20 years before DNA 

technology was able to exonerate him, and this 

penetrating doc captures the legal system in a warts-

and-all manner that’s bound to be eye-opening for 

students convinced of the law’s flawlessness.





6. American Pimp: The protestations of Kid Rock 

notwithstanding, a pimp is probably not something one 

should aspire to be. Directed by the Hughes Brothers, 

who also helmed Menace II SocietyAmerican 

Pimp strips the cheesy glamour and dubious reputation 

from the pimp subculture by showing just how deluded 

(and illegal) these men are. It gets even darker when it 

touches on the women who have died living the 

prostitute life.


American Pimp (1999) More On www.igloomediabase.com from Igloo Media Base on Vimeo.

7.Witch Hunt: This one’s well below the radar for most 

people, but that’s all the more reason to seek it out. 

Narrated by Sean Penn, this 2008 documentary deals 

with the dozens of men and women in California’s Kern 

County who were wrongly convicted for committing 

sexual crimes against children. Despite the mountain of 

evidence that the children were coerced into lying, the 

district attorney remained in office by boasting of his 

impressive conviction rate. A harrowing look at how the 

legal system can be manipulated by the wrong person.





8. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son 

About His FatherWriter-

director Kurt Kuenne’s documentary is a stunning story 

of twisted love and sick betrayal. Kuenne’s best friend, 

Andrew Bagby, was shot and killed by Shirley Turner 

after Bagby broke up with her. Shortly after, she 

revealed she was pregnant with Bagby’s child. 

Kuenne’s film is a 

letter to the infant that attempts to piece together 

Bagby’s life and death as a letter for the son who would 

never know him. Wrenching and unforgettable.




9. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer

Richard Kuklinski was an enforcer for the Gambino 

crime family, a brutal job that eventually landed him in 

prison. In this 1992 documentary (and its 2002 follow-

up, The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman), 

he speaks frankly about the people he killed and the life 

he lived. It’s a stunning look at a man seemingly 

immune to all violence, and the weird calm with which 

he discusses his jobs is unnerving.




10. Scottsboro: An American Tragedy: It’s not hard to 

see why stories of wrongful conviction make up so

 much of the crime documentary field: there’s something

 about the stories that expresses the worst (miscarriages

 of justice) and the best (hard-won salvation) of the 

American legal system. The tale of the Scottsboro 

Boys (pictured above) is a sad one born of racism and 

anger, in which a group of nine young black men in 

1931 were sent to prison for raping a pair of white 

women, despite the fact that no evidence was 

presented. 

The case was a landmark in the development of rights 

for the accused, and this documentary is a stirring 

reminder of the high cost and higher responsibility of 

fighting for the people


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