If you ever want to make a case against the death penalty, especially in Texas, The Thin Blue Line, the documentary film by Errol Morris about the miscarriage of justice in the Randall Dale Adams will do it for you. Adams was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death for the Dallas County murder of a policeman. Everybody, including the prosecutor knew another man, 16 year-old David Harris had committed the crime but since at the time you could not get a capital case when an underage youth was involved, Adams became the man the law set out to get.

Until Michael Moore, no one had ever made a more famous and talked about documentary film. Fans of Law and Order and other crime TV shows will enjoy this documentary even if the genre itself is not a crowd favorite. Morris brilliantly deconstructs the prosecution’s case with interviews with everybody involved except the District Attorney and members of the jury and builds a case against David Harris.

Perhaps the most interesting comment amongst the many made by various supposed witnesses, lawyers, and so on, is when this one supposed witness says, “You know why they call them the halls of justice? Because everything is decided in the hallway even before you set foot in the court room.”

The DVD itself includes an unrelated extra in the First Person episode about “Mr. Personality” Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist. It would have been a lot more interesting to get some kind of follow-up story on Randall Dale Adams, how he got his freedom back because of The Thin Blue Line and then sued Morris for his share or something. As Morris’ wife supposedly said, “Just because he’s a victim doesn’t mean he isn’t an asshole.”What few people know about Errol Morris, aside that he won an Academy Award for the documentary film The Fog of War about Robert S. McNamara and the Vietnam War and is also responsible for A Brief History of Time, is that he also does in-house documentaries and, yes, commercials, you know stuff like Nike and Miller High Life.

The Thin Blue Line
A Documentary by Errol Morris
IFC Films 1988
102 minutes plus extras

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