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Trial Story Flames of Racism: A Hate Crime in Florida

Reporter: Dan Abrams.

Reporter: Dan Abrams.

Host: Gregg Jarrett.

True courtroom drama, part of Court TV’s “Trial Story” series, goes for the real thing, with no actors, no legal hat tricks, only an edited account of an infamously brutal murder attempt Jan. 1, 1993, in Florida. It’s irresistible — and true.

Two white men, Charles Rourk and Mark Kohut, are on trial for trying to kill a black Florida vacationer, Christopher Wilson, on New Year’s morning by pouring gasoline over him and lighting it. They were accused by a young man who’d been charged with murder and armed robbery and who, after fingering them, pleaded guilty for a lesser sentence.

The format is straightforward, with reporter Dan Abrams identifying participants and explaining processes and recourses in the case. Rourk and Kohut deny their guilt, and Rourk has three witnesses that place him back at the trailer park where he lives.

The power’s turned on when the reluctant Wilson, taking the stand, recalls what happened that ghastly morning. He’d gone to buy a newspaper from a rack when he was stopped by having a gun muzzle held against his neck. He didn’t have much of a look at them, calling one “bright eyes,” the other “the mean one,” but his quiet recitation of events is riveting.

Court TV, a joint venture of American Lawyer Media L.P., Time Warner, NBC, Cablevision Systems Development Corp. and Liberty Media, is distributed to cable subscribers in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The current offering is an informative, strong account of one man’s ordeal and the resolution. With no direction credited, “Flames of Racism” still emphatically makes its point.

Trial Story Flames of Racism: A Hate Crime in Florida

(Sun. (16), 9-10 p.m., Court TV)

Production: Taped at the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Courthouse by Courtroom TV. Exec producer, Steve Johnson; senior producer, Jamie Alter; producer, Peter Aronson.

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