OJ. junkies are advised to forget about that trial for a while and watch “Evidence of Innocence: The Lloyd Schlup Death Penalty Case.” With its factual presentation, Court TV again proves its ability to entertain while stimulating thought about the basic issues of our time.
“Evidence” is a fascinating presentation of the aftermath of a 1984 murder at the Jefferson City, Mo., Correctional Center. Lloyd Schlup was scheduled for a 1993 execution, which was stayed by the governor because new evidence had come to light. However, Schlup remains on death row.
The special offers a paucity of info about Schlup’s early background, but he clearly was no choirboy. He was serving time in the highest-security section of the prison when black inmate Arthur Dade was killed; Schlup was one of three whites accused of the killing. He was convicted after a trial that only lasted two days, and Schlup lost appeal after appeal.
Now, however, there are questions about the competence of his first lawyer. Originally, other inmates said they didn’t see anything — snitches don’t live very long in the prison system. Ten years later, 19 inmates — both black and white, many since released from prison — have signed affidavits that Schlup had nothing to do with the murder. The son of the victim, himself a convict, says he’s heard through the prison grapevine that Schlup is innocent and doesn’t want to see him executed. Missouri attorney general Jay Nixon, though, has no doubt about Schlup’s guilt, saying inmates traditionally contradict each other and have little “sensitivity for the truth.” However, the guards in the case also have become suspects. Court TV’s Stuart Taylor Jr. asks expert, piercing questions of the principals in the case, and each segment becomes more intense.
The hour consists of one interview after another; while the talking-heads format may sound monotonous, it’s just the opposite. The tension slowly builds until the viewer is gripped by the story.
Court TV has put itself on the map with its coverage of the Menendez and O.J. Simpson trials, but it also regularly airs docs that look at the legal system. “Evidence” is part of Court’s weekly series “In Context”; following the report, Taylor and Harvard Law prof Arthur Miller discuss the death penalty.
“Evidence of Innocence” illustrates how creatively a series of facts can be presented.