CNN has just announced an upcoming eight-part original series starting this Sunday on the death penalty in America, with award-winning, and tireless, documentary film maker Alex Gibney and some guy named Robert Redford as executive producers, plus Susan Sarandon (let’s not forget her role as Sister Helen Prejean in the great Dead Man Walking) as narrator.
That sounds like a good thing, and echoes my two books on the subject, including this recent ebook, Dead Reckoning.
Gibney promises, “The series provides stark examples of the struggle between the powerful and the powerless. The stakes—life or death—couldn’t be higher.”
Each show will spotlight one particular controversial case with guilt and innocence at stake. Here’s how they describe this Sunday’s opener:
Edward Lee Elmore, a 23-year-old African-American handyman, was charged with the murder of a well-to-do white woman in Greenwood, S.C., in 1982. The jury spent less than three hours deliberating before finding Elmore guilty of capital murder. It was not until a legal intern named Diana Holt investigated his case for the defense team that startling new evidence of his innocence began to emerge. The episode follows Holt and Elmore as the defense team embarks on a roller coaster ride through the criminal justice system, discovering negligence and cover-ups all along the way.
Ashleigh Banfield is doing a “Google Hangout” tonight at 6 pm with Gibney and others.
As I predicted in my book, the number of executions has been declining in many states as more “innocence” cases emerge, problems with obtaining the lethal injection drugs increase, and life-without-parole spreads as a credible alternative. But polls still show fairly strong support for capital punishment among the American public and the practice shows no signs of disappearing here.