Moive Viewing: Thin Blue Line
   
 
Can a jury be second guessed?
 
Introduction 
 

This landmark award-winning documentary, which revolutionized the form and helped acquit an innocent man of murder, came about almost by accident. Errol Morris had already directed such offbeat documentaries as Gates of Heaven (concerning pet cemeteries; a favorite of Roger Ebert's) and Vernon, Florida, which touchingly portrays the small town's eccentric inhabitants. He'd intended to travel to Texas to make a film about the criminal-psychiatry expert James Grigson, or "Dr. Death" as he came to be known for his frequent testimony against defendants, who were often then sent to death row. When Morris discovered that the doctor was involved in the trial of Randall Dale Adams, a man who, it seemed, had been falsely accused of the highway murder of a police officer, he decided that Adams's story was the real one to tell. Morris's innovative use of repeated dramatization, multiple points of view, talking-head and phone interviews, and symbolism--in concert with Philip Glass's haunting music--establishes that a combination of communitarian zeal and overly eager testimony persuaded the jury to find Adams, a "drifter" from the Midwest, guilty of the crime.

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Task
 

Please take notes that will help you and your co-jurors make a decision in Randall Dale Adams’ case.
Once your group has come to a decision, elect a jury foreman to present your group’s decision tot he class.

Questions:

  1. In the film The Thin Blue Line, uses music by famed composer Philip Glass and very sophisticated editing and recreations of the crimes. Is this overkill? Does all of the music added sound and visual effects affect your opinion of Randall Dale Adams’ case?


  2. Do you think that the specter of a capital case changes people’s ideas about how justice should be carried out?


  3. What influenced the first jury to come to its verdict?


  4. Is a policeman’s life worth more than another person’s? Explain?


  5. Why do you think the “system” ignored David Harris’s part in the murder?

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Process
 

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Resources
 

 

 


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 Evaluation 
 

 

 

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 Conclusion 
 

 

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Standards
 


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  Updated: 1/08/03  
 
email Ken at kstein2@nycboe.net