Dec. 2006. 94min. Choices, DVD, $49.95 (1-933724-04-8)
REVIEW. First published January 1, 2007 (Booklist)
This gripping documentary raises serious questions about the U.S. justice system by profiling a case that occurred nearly 10 years ago in a white, middle-class suburb of Los Angeles. The case involves male teens (age 15 to 18) whose lives were irrevocably changed following a fatal knife fight. Four teens were arrested, charged with felony murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life without parole. The documentary heightens tension through dramatized reenactments, footage, news clips, newspaper headlines, still photos, and interviews with the victim's parents and the incarcerated young men. Statements from attorneys (prosecutors and defenders) and noted lawyer Alan Dershowitz lead viewers to the disturbing realization that unjust hidden agendas (the district attorney wanted to appear tough following the O. J. Simpson trial) may have swayed the case. Did the court system manipulate facts and findings? Were the accused teens railroaded? Did the harsh punishment fit the crime?
- Carol Holzberg