Title: Scenes of a Crime
Director: Grover Babcock, Blue Hadaegh
Getting caught on videotape is probably the most damning piece of evidence brought into a trial, but what happens when the circumstances and practices of what is caught on videotape is in question. What happens when an accused man’s confession is psychologically coerced from detectives? In the documentary, “Scenes of a Crime,” filmmakers Grover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh try to question police practices and somehow overturn a jury’s final verdict in the case of Adrian Thomas in Troy, New York, accused of murdering his infant son.
The film starts with very haunting images of a small, bare single room with the accused sitting in the middle of it being questioned by detectives. This is something you might see in the “Paranormal Activity” series, but the greater horror is these videotapes are taken from reality. In these recordings, there is over 10 hours of questioning of Thomas and what is drilled into the audiences as the film unfolds is the motives of the detectives to get a confession. This video footage is intercut with a police interrogation video and interviews from detectives on sight. Smartly, the filmmakers start off by presenting the information in a objective light. It seems fair and well-balanced, which is effective to the filmmakers end. They want to put the idea of a reasonable doubt into the audience, thus serving as a surrogate jury.
Adrain Thomas is an unemployed father, trying to balance finding a job to provide for his family and taking care of newborn twin boys. When one of the boys is rushed to the hospital, doctors conclude that boy was abused. Adrain is taken into the local police station and questioned for 10 hours. During the interrogation, he confesses to being responsible for the boys eventual death. But what is presented to the jury during the trial was far different from the reality of the situation and a conviction of 25 years is the result of these video recordings.
The defense during the trial takes the side of faulty police work and the actions of irresponsible doctors as the result of the infants death. The film does a fantastic job presenting both sides of the defense and prosecution in a fair and well-balanced manner, even interviewing jurors and juror alternates to come to the conclusion that Adrian Thomas may be falsely accused and convicted. It’s horrific to think that this could happen to anyone.
“Scenes of a Crime” is a well presented documentary, getting all sides of the case of this infant’s death and doesn’t necessarily jump to the conclusion of innocence or guilt. It is an effective documentary and more haunting and horrifying than any found-footage horror movie, solely because it tries to dig for the truth rather than present it as the truth. And what can be taken away from this documentary is always have a lawyer present with you if you are ever questioned by the police. It can mean the difference between fact and fiction.