The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 documentary film by Errol Morris, depicting the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to die for a murder he did not commit. Adams’ case was reviewed and he was released from prison approximately a year after the film’s release.
I really enjoyed The Thin Blue Line documentary. I found it incredibly powerful and memorable, some documentaries don’t really stay in your mind but this particular documentary certainly made an impact. I found it fascinating that the documentary was powerful and eye opening enough to prove that five witnesses had committed perjury. As a result of publicity around the film, Adams had his conviction overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the case returned to Dallas County for a retrial. The district attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case again and Adams was subsequently ordered released as a result of a habeas corpus hearing in 1989.
I found it amazing that something so serious as a person being put up for the death sentence because of a crime they supposedly committed could be a mistake! The impact the making of this documentary has made on Adam’s life is incredible. If more documentaries and research were done into topics such as the death sentence many more innocent people would be able to prove their innocence! It brings up a variety of moral issues regarding the obvious corruption of the Dallas police department; issues that would have never been addressed if the documentary was never made!
What makes this documentary so striking is the fact that Randal Dale Adams wrongly served over 12 years in prison and if not for this documentary, he would have faced the death sentence! It’s incredible that a documentary has the power to save an innocent man’s life.
The film contained re-enactment scenes built carefully from witnesses’ statements which was a really powerful effect to add to the documentary. The re-enactment of the actual murder was incredibly useful as it gave us, as viewers, the insight into how the incident took place. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine something without seeing it for yourself and the various re-enactments gave us the perspective of what happened from both Adam’s and Harris point of view. The re-enactments also added a realistic and somwhat eerie effect to the documentary. The re-enactments and witness interviews ensured there wasn’t a dull moment.
The two attorneys who represented Adams at the trial where he was convicted of capital murder also appear in the documentary: they suggest that Adams was charged with the crime despite the better evidence against Harris because, as Harris was a juvenile, Adams alone of the two could be sentenced to death under Texas law. Throughout the documentary the idea that Harris is innocent is slowly built, I like the fact that because I did not know the details of the film, I was unsure who was innocent at first. It’s constructed in a very clever way from start to finish we see interviews with both Harris and Adam’s who defend their own innocence.