Coming to Showtime beginning this Sunday, July 5:
SXSW 2020 (cancelled)
A high school football star convicted of a horrific crime fights to prove his innocence.
In 2013, on the basis of a four-year-old boy’s accusation of sexual abuse, police in Cedar Park TX arrested Greg Kelley, an 18-year-old local high school football star. A year later, despite his steadfast claims of innocence, Kelley was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison with no hope of parole. Kelley’s friends and family – as well as a growing group of supporters – come to his defense, beginning a campaign to somehow secure his freedom, buoyed by a new defense attorney. Filmmaker Pat Kondelis follows the story over five years, and, over the course of five episodes, convincingly frames it as a miscarriage of justice that cost not only Kelley his freedom, but brought false relief to the survivors, each victims of a shoddy police investigation that sought a successful conviction rather than the facts. Though affectively enraging and gripping as a whole, the series includes some puzzling elements – what are viewers to make of a victim’s rights advocate who doesn’t appear to be connected to the case in any way, but who doggedly insists that Kelley is guilty, regardless of any exculpatory evidence? Where did die-hard Kelley advocate Jake Brydon come from, and why is he so invested in the case? What exactly caused the Texas ranger independently investigating the case to make an about face and seemingly fabricate damaging findings about Kelley? How did police chief Sean Mannix and Detective Chris Dailey survive unscathed despite the outpouring of criticism they faced? While Kelley’s story does find an ultimate ending, the larger case in which he was involved remains frustratingly unresolved on many levels, with the viewer left unsure what can or should happen next. Still, the engaging series makes clear that what happened in this case, while extreme, is not unique to Cedar Park TX, and, coming at a time of reckoning around the role of the police in America, underscores the need for serious reforms to the criminal justice system.