Joe Berlinger’s documentary series Wrong Man shows what long form documentary journalism can achieve. After the first season, the Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction of Curtis Flowers, who had been tried six times by nearly all-white juries; Christopher Tapp was exonerated from rape and murder charges after serving 20 years of a 30-year sentence; Evaristo Salas will go to into a new trial represented by a pro bono lawyer.
After a successful first season, Starz has announced that Wrong Man season 2 will premiere on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 9:45 p.m. The premiere episode will air following the series finale of Power.
After the premiere episode, Wrong Man will air on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. The six-episode documentary series examines the cases of three different inmates who are serving life sentences on murder convictions but who claim innocence. Oscar-nominated and Emmy–winning director Berlinger (Paradise Lost, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes), a leading voice in non-fiction film and television for over two decades, returns to keep checks on the criminal justice system. His team includes renowned civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, former prosecutor Sue-Ann Robinson, retired NCIS investigator Joe Kennedy, and Ira Todd of Detroit’s elite Homicide Task Force.
Wrong Man takes viewers on real-time investigations to uncover new evidence, track down key witnesses, consult forensic experts, and interrogate the incarcerated. The second season will “continue to uncover new theories and reveal startling new evidence that could prove that three new inmates are, in fact, not guilty,” according to Starz’s press statement.
Two of the season’s three cases will feature female inmates. The first, Vonda Smith, was convicted of murdering her grandchild’s mother, 21-year-old Jessie Morrison.
“Morrison was 16 weeks pregnant when her lifeless body was found beaten beyond recognition and dumped along a remote country road,” reads the statement. “Smith claims that she is innocent and that she loved the victim like a daughter.”
The second is Patricia Rorrer, who has been in prison since 1998 after being convicted of the horrific murder of a young mother, Joann Katrinak, and her 15-week old son in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. Rorrer claims the DNA evidence used to send her away is “junk science.”
The third inmate whose case is under examination is Kenneth Clair. He was sentenced to death after being convicted of the brutal torture and murder of a young babysitter named Linda Rodgers in 1984 in Santa Ana, California. “The only eyewitness to the murder – a five-year-old child – told police officers that a white man did it,” reads the statement. “Clair is black, and no forensic evidence ties him to the crime scene.”
Season 1 had a tangible impact on all three cases that were examined. According to the LA Times, the United States Supreme Court struck down the conviction of death row inmate Curtis Flowers, who was prosecuted six times for the same crime of quadruple murder, and by the same prosecutor, “in a case riddled with evidentiary problems and allegations of racial bias,” according to the press statement. In his dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged the case might not have even been heard by the Supreme Court had it not been for the media that reinvestigated it.
Christopher Tapp, who was convicted of the 1996 sexual assault and murder of an 18-year-old girl in Idaho, was coerced into confessing to the crime after an estimated 150 hours of interrogations. He was sentenced to life in prison. After Tapp served nearly 21 years of his sentence, the real killer was finally found through forensic genealogy, according to Time. Tapp’s lawyer said Wrong Man’s “in-depth investigation into the Tapp conviction helped free an innocent man.”
Wrong Man investigators interrogated a confidential informant, the main witness against Evaristo Salas, and he recanted his testimony. As a result, Salas, who did not have legal representation at the time of filming, was offered pro bono representation by a Washington State attorney, who believes in his innocence. She intends to file a motion for a new trial.
Berlinger’s landmark HBO documentary Paradise Lost Trilogy helped lead to the release of the wrongfully convicted West Memphis Three after 18 years of incarceration. His film Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger uncovered law enforcement corruption at the highest levels. Berlinger’s recently directed Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, and the feature film on the infamous serial killer, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, for Netflix.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
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