The Manhattan district attorney’s decision in February to review the convictions of two men for the assassination of Malcolm X coincided with the release of a six-part documentary on Netflix, “Who Killed Malcolm X?,” that made a strong case they were innocent.
They are expected to be exonerated by Thursday. Abdur-Rahman Muhammad was the host of the documentary and pointed out the series as the catalyst. He tweeted Wednesday that the exoneration was a “historic milestone.”
It was not the first documentary film to change the public perception of a case in recent times. It forced the authorities into re-examination.
In 2015, a six-part HBO documentary called “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” started a chain of events that led to the conviction of Mr. Durst, a New York real estate scion, for the killing of Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in October.
The documentary delved into the deaths of not only Ms. Berman but also of Mr. Durst’s wife, Kathie McCormack Durst, who disappeared in 1982. Earlier this month, Mr. Durst was charged with his wife’s murder as well.
Dick DeGuerin, Mr. Durst’s lead defense attorney, encouraged Mr. Durst not to cooperate with the filmmakers but he did anyway, handing over hours of interviews and access to troves of documents including telephone bills, credit card statements, and legal records.
Hours before the final part of the documentary aired, Mr. Durst was arrested on a murder warrant for Ms. Berman’s killing. “It’s abundantly clear we wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for ‘The Jinx,’” Mr. DeGuerin told The New York Times in 2017.
After being found guilty of a decades-long scheme to recruit girls and women for sex, R. Kelly could spend his entire life in prison. That conviction came two years after some of the women accusing him of abusing them as teenagers shared their stories in a 2019 Lifetime documentary series called “Surviving R. Kelly.”
In the early 2000s, a Chicago music critic first reported on allegations against Kelly. Kelly was later acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
Still, the women telling their stories onscreen led to renewed interest in Mr. Kelly’s activities from law enforcement. The singer was charged with new crimes in Minnesota, Illinois and New York after the documentary aired.
Podcasts have also had an impact on legal cases. “In the Dark,” a 2019 podcast by journalists at APM Reports, looked closely at how a white prosecutor in Mississippi, over the span of several decades, had tried Curtis Flowers, who is Black, six times for the 1996 killings of four people in a furniture store.
The reporters raised doubts about the prosecutors’ forensic evidence. The George Polk Award, a prestigious journalism prize, was presented to the show.
The U.S. Supreme Court declared that the prosecutor in these cases had unlawfully kept Black jurors out of the cases. And months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Supreme Court of Mississippi decided to throw out the case.
Source: NY Times