The Innocence Files review – a fresh take on the US justice system


The Innocence Files

The Innocence Files has left Getintothis’ Abi Moss Coomes questioning the US Justice system after watching this Netflix series.

152 years. The total number of years the eight protagonists of Netflix’s new docuseries spent in prison.

For crimes they did not commit.

Two of those men were sentenced to death.

Netflix has become known for their true crime documentaries that follow the trials of high profile cases, such as their 2019 release Conversations with a killer: The Ted Bundy tapes.

However, this time round they’re turning that format on its head by putting the American criminal justice system under the spotlight.

Across nine episodes The Innocence Files paints a grim tale of eight men wrongly convicted of murder.

The series follows the process and efforts of American non profit organisation The Innocent Project in getting these cases overturned and seeing the release of eight innocent men.

It’s not an easy watch, with some of the gruesome details of the cases being exposed, but at the same time it’s strangely uplifting, seeing the eventual release of the men and how they go on to use their new found freedom.

With each case as shocking as the next, the episodes combine original footage from court cases and expert testimonials to highlight how the men found themselves wrongly convicted in the first place.

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For some it was as little as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with Thomas Haynesworth serving 27 years on counts rape, robbery and abduction after being wrongly identified when walking to the shop.

Although each episode focuses on a new case the series is divided into three sections, linking the cases through their false, yet incriminating evidence.

Misuse of forensic evidence, false eyewitness testimony and prosecutorial misconduct.

The Innocent Project exonerates cases based on previously dismissed or unavailable DNA evidence.

However, the real story shown across this nine part series is the evidence used to convict these men in the first place.

Each episode provides a sometimes overwhelming amount of detail about the evidence used. Going on to debunk it alarmingly quickly.

The most notable instance of this being the misuse of forensic evidence which is more casually referred to as ‘junk science’. Episodes 1 & 2 follow the cases of Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, who serve 16 and 13 year sentences for the murder and sexual assault of two young girls.

Charged on separate accounts, it is later discovered that the two crimes were in fact committed by the same person.

And the bite marks, that were testified to be certain evidence that each man had committed the crimes, were later identified as crayfish bites, after the bodies had been left in a river.

Both fascinating and shocking this series leaves you angry on behalf of all the men who served so much time for crimes they did not commit.

But it also leaves you questioning the justice system as a whole.

With The Innocent Project receiving about 3000 requests a year from inmates asking for their cases to be re-opened, you’re left wondering how many other innocent people are suffering for crimes they did not commit.

And how many people are walking free, from crimes they did.