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The Innocent Man
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Innocent Man is a true crime documentary series about the murder and rape of two women in the 1980s and the possibly wrongly convicted men serving time for the crimes. Grisly details of murders are discussed in detail as multiple people recount the events. Older, mature teens who have an interest in shows like Making a Murderer or The Jinx, may have an interest in this series, but the content is very dark.
What's the story?
THE INNOCENT MAN follows the outcome of two crimes that occurred in Ada, Oklahoma in the 1980s -- the murder and rape of Debbie Carter in 1982 and Denise Harroway in 1984. Viewers are introduced to the victims’s families as they retell the events leading up the tragedies. Then the Ada police and district attorney round up suspects. We’re shown actual interviews with the two men accused of each crime and even hear their on-camera confessions. Each pair of suspects is convicted, but as the years go by and new advances in forensic science allow for DNA testing, what seemed like open and shut cases in the 1980s are revealed to be much more complicated.
Is it any good?
Less dramatic and twisty then many recent true crime documentaries, The Innocent Man comes off as a somewhat perfunctory entry in this genre. Due to its examination of two different crimes with two different suspects, the narrative focus isn’t all that clear in the first few episodes. Only after the DNA testing is introduced at the end of episode three does the audience get a sense of where this story is headed. Once the creators introduce the idea that there may be a pattern of misconduct by the local police and prosecutor, there is a noticeable increase in the momentum of the show.
Yet as new investigators and journalists and experts are brought in help exonerate the men who have now been incarcerated for more than 30 years, viewers can’t be blamed for feeling a bit of true-crime fatigue. At what point do these shows and films stop being about educating the public about the flaws of the American justice system and simply become exercises in exploitation?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about prejudice. Several people interviewed in The Innocent Man claim the men were accused of the crime simply because they were poor. Do you think poverty makes people easy targets for abuse by the police? Why or why not?
What do you think makes people interested in true crime? Is it the unsolved mysteries? The psychology behind each crime?
For kids who love documentaries
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