Scenes of a Crime – 2011 Raindance

It was a very odd coincidence that I saw this documentary of a hugely controversial case the same day that Amanda Knox was released from prison. Directed by Grover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh, Scenes of a Crime is a fantastic documentary about a high-profile child murder case in New York State. Adrian Thomas is convicted of murdering his four-month-old son Matthew, and this documentary presents every single bit of evidence without ever trying to sway its audience, including footage from Thomas’ ten-hour interview with detectives. This documentary is not concerned with taking sides, but instead with bringing to light some glaring issues in the American Justice System.

Scenes of a Crime absolutely covers all of the bases. We are shown the footage from the lengthy interview; sometimes footage repeated as new evidence is brought to light, and this cleverly makes us reconsider what we have seen. The documentary also presents footage from a police training video on how to conduct interrogations as well as testimonials from the policemen on how they carried out the interview.  Lawyers and expert witnesses from both defense and prosecution are also given a chance to put their views forward, not to mention the vast amounts of scientific evidence that both support and condemn Thomas and the many experts that explain and support it.

Babcock and Hadaegh have ensured that no leaf has gone unturned, and all the while the evidence is presented to us in a unique and interesting way. Visual effects are used in some cases to add a bit of life to courtroom documents and hospital reports. We are kept on the edge of our seats throughout and everything is explained carefully and clearly.

The only glimpse of biasness that I ever felt was when the individual jurors were giving their accounts, and that is no fault of the directors. These people seemed dangerously incompetent. A couple of them were shown saying, “Well, I was going to say ‘not guilty,’ but…” and one woman even said, “Well…you can never be 100% sure” and yet still convicted him. It is not the science authorities, the highly trained lawyers, the judge, or the hospital experts that control Thomas’ fate. It is a jury that quite frankly jolted me into awareness of some of the dangers inherent within the American Justice System. Scenes of a Crime is no doubt going to prove to be a very important documentary of our time.