As the slow days of summer arrive, chances are good that true-crime junkies will be looking for something to fill up their schedules. Might we suggest some true-crime documentaries filled to the brim with murder, enigmatic religious groups with questionable motives, a corrupt judicial system and wrongful imprisonment?
The documentaries that have been coming out in recent months — and will be coming out through summer 2018 — are exploring important social issues like racial injustice and prosecutorial bias. They’re exposing the imperfections in our legal system (the dirt some lawmakers would rather sweep under the rug) and challenging you, the viewer, to make a difference.
These are the true-crime documentaries you can’t miss — and you’ll want to make sure your friends are watching so you can get together and discuss them in greater detail.
Evil Genius was released on Netflix on May 11 and covers the infamous story of the pizza man bank heist and bombing. In short, a pizza delivery man walked into a bank with a cane gun and a bomb collar and demanded money. When he left the bank, police were already there, but he informed them he had a bomb around his neck. Before the bomb squad could get to the location, however, the bomb went off and the man died from injuries sustained in the blast.
This story isn’t just a case of whodunit; it’s also an investigation into the pizza man himself. Was he involved with the bank robbers, or was he an innocent victim?
Half the fun of this true-crime story is discussing the case with friends. Not to spoil too much about the series, but the ending definitely has people talking. Key witnesses and investigators in the case haven’t been shy about making their opinions about the series known — some agree, but many don’t.
Three convicted killers who maintain their innocence. Three new investigations to find the truth. Wrong Man, a new series that premiered Sunday on Starz, is the result of these investigations. So, who is innocent and who is guilty? We’ll be watching to find out.
Of course, it’s more complicated than just who is innocent and who is guilty. The show is predicated on the fact that 4 percent of death row inmates are later proven innocent — and that statistic is just cases that are proved. The series will no doubt explore inherent bias and corruption in the justice system.
The Staircase, which began many a true-crime addiction, was first released in 2004 and explores the death of Kathleen Peterson. Her husband, Michael, was accused of the crime, but Michael maintains to this day that her death was accidental. He says he wasn’t even in the room when it happened. He claims she slipped and fell on the stairs, hitting her head and dying from her injuries. Prosecutors, however, maintain Michael bludgeoned his wife to death with a fireplace poker. The story covered by the documentary is fascinating.
And there’s more story to tell. Netflix is bringing the series back and adding three new episodes with new evidence. Start streaming this on Friday.
Wild, Wild Country
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
That seems to be one of the main themes explored in Netflix’s new cult (pun intended) hit Wild, Wild Country, which was released on the streaming site March 16. The series follows the rise and downfall of Rajneeshpuram, a commune established in Oregon in the early ’80s. Though it’s not a crime docu-series per se, it is a terrifying and fascinating look at a cult gone wrong. (Are there ever cults gone right?) This docu-series really has it all: poison, bombings, arson, attempted murder and fraud, all on one of the largest scales in history.
An untitled R. Kelly documentary
This documentary hasn’t even been made yet and the story is already getting major buzz. Hulu and Buzzfeed are co-producing the film, which will detail R. Kelly’s alleged history of abusing underage women. Kelly has allegedly kept a sex cult of young women for years. In May, a woman named Faith A. Rodgers filed a lawsuit against Kelly alleging sexual battery, false imprisonment and failure to disclose a sexually transmitted disease.
Kelly denies all the claims.
Buzzfeed’s Matt Mittenthal reports that the documentary will feature key players including survivors and R. Kelly’s associates.
The Last Defense
ABC’s upcoming docu-series The Last Defense, from executive producer Viola Davis, premieres June 12. The seven-part series covers the death row cases of Darlie Routier and Julius Jones. In both cases, the docu-series will seek to present evidence that sheds light on the mistakes made by investigators and prosecutors as well as the reasonable doubt that still exists in the cases.
Routier was convicted of the brutal stabbing of her two young sons. Decades later, she maintains her innocence.
Jones was sentenced to death for a carjacking murder of a white father of two. He also maintains his innocence.
And the evidence is apparently murky. These two people very well might be innocent. The Last Defense challenges viewers to watch, make their own judgments and, hopefully, take action. Much like Adnan Syed’s case from Serial, creators of this show are hoping to spur viewers to cause change within the justice system.