Review of Outcry directed by Pat Kondelis Rating *****
When it comes to wrongful convictions, all it takes is the breakdown of just one step in the criminal justice system. A detective looking to close a case can coerce a false confession. A prosecutor can bring charges that the evidence doesn’t support. A jury can send a person to prison for twenty-five years without blinking an eye just because they would rather go home than debate the facts. The story told in Outcry touches on all of these themes and more.
It all starts with an accusation. A four-year-old boy accuses a teenager, Greg Kelley, of sexual assault. Greg is a high school football star with a full college scholarship awaiting his graduation. What follows is one misstep after another as Greg is soon arrested and put through the spin cycle of our broken criminal justice system.
The detective assigned the case doesn’t interview a single person in the household where the alleged assault occurred. He doesn’t even go to the house to verify the boy’s statement. The house where Greg was staying also ran an in-home daycare. The daycare owner recommended a lawyer to Greg’s mother, who then hired her to represent Greg. The lawyer, Patricia Cummings, does a less than competent job in defending her client. Since the documentary has aired, Patricia Cummings has gone on the defense and is threatening to sue the filmmakers. My take, based on the facts presented, especially the way she turned on her client when her reputation was on the line, point to ineffective counsel. One of Patricia’s defenders is Michael Morton. Michael Morton spent twenty-plus years in prison for a crime he did not commit. I have a lot of respect for Michael Morton. His book Getting Life is one of the best books ever written about a wrongful conviction. I’m sure he has a good reason to come to her defense. But if Patricia Cummings had done half the job as Greg’s second attorney, Keith Hampton, there would not have been a wrongful conviction.
The missteps by the lawyers, detectives, and prosecutors are not the only glaring failures. The series also touches on issues concerning sentencing disparities, the appeals process, and the inadequacies of our jury system.
I won’t give away the ending. But one of the saddest aspects of this story is that none of the people responsible were held accountable. No one lost their job. Instead, there were promotions and praise. The lead prosecutor, however, committed suicide. It’s not known what role this case had in that sad outcome.
Outcry is an emotional rollercoaster that will stay with you long after the last of this five-episode docuseries.