Presumed Guilty

Michael Niederman’s 1990 Chicago-made documentary about the 1968 murder trial and conviction of Dr. John Branion Jr. (who died in September 1990). The film does an excellent job of persuading us that Branion was convicted of killing his wife on the basis of insubstantial, inconclusive, and even contradictory evidence, largely because of an inadequate defense and the various racial tensions that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King (Branion was black). The fact that Branion skipped bail and fled to Africa for many years dissuaded various judges from retrying his case, even though hardly anyone still believed that Branion was guilty as charged. Although this is much more simply made than, say, The Thin Blue Line, the facts and implications are no less disturbing, and Niederman does a fine job of juggling interviews (including one with Oscar Brown Jr., the first cousin of Branion’s murdered wife) with other elements in building his case. 60 min. (JR)

This entry was posted in Featured Texts. Bookmark the permalink.