The Innocence Files

  • 25 Apr - 01 May, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly

Netflix has a true crime treatment for just about every transgression you can imagine, whether it’s murder or kidnapping etc. The Innocence Files is the latest addition to the genre, but this time there’s a twist: the “perpetrators” did not commit the crimes they are accused of. The show, overseen by a starry line-up of directors including Oscar-winner Alex Gibney – follows The Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organisation that exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing. It was founded by two former public defenders who saw so many problems with the criminal justice system that they felt compelled to act. Looking back on the cases, you'd struggle to fathom how a jury could sentence a person to death with so little evidence. They meet inmates from all walks of life, but they all seem to have one thing in common: they lack the resources to fight for their freedom. As each case unfolds, the grim events are recapped in meticulous detail, with crackling archive footage. We are introduced to the people who played a part in sending the innocent behind bars. Dr Michael West, for example, is a forensic dentist so committed to his research that he asks to be bitten all over his body so he can examine the marks left by human teeth on the skin. There are moving scenes too, with footage of the innocent men finally being told they are free to go. Many of them have endured years on death row and suffered unthinkable abuse in prison. The Innocence Files is potent in that it shows how wrongful convictions not only destroy individual lives, but also have an impact on science, on what is taken seriously as a legitimate piece of evidence.