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Acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris found significant acclaim with his 1986 effort “The Thin Blue Line.”  “Line” is Morris’ examination of the case of convicted Texas murderer Randall Adams.  Adams was a nobody with bad luck who had no priors and was railroaded by a system that stubbornly established him as the murderer of a police officer in 1976.  The man who fingered him for the crime, David Harris, had scores of strikes on his record, was known to be mentally unbalanced, and was very likely the one who killed the officer.  Morris slowly unravels the unlucky circumstances which lead to Adams being sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit.  More than anything his documentary is an examination of a justice system turned into Orwellian nightmare.  Simply put, once Adams was decided upon as the primary suspect, no amount of logic or legal maneuvers could deter the system from prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law.  Evidence was non-existent, witnesses were clearly unreliable and untrust worthy, judges and prosecuting attorneys refused to admit their mistakes.  It’s a legal nightmare of the worst kind.  Thanks in no small part to Morris and his film, Adams was eventually released and cleared.

Morris’ film is very engrossing, the Philip Glass score helps, but slightly dated stylistically.  He intercuts interview footage of the primary participants with a gradually changing reenactment of the murder.  For a documentary at the time it was probably seen as groundbreaking.  There’s no denying the movie’s lasting relevance, but overall it may feel a little antiquated.


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