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The Thin Blue Line (1988) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

  • Errol Morris's unique documentary dramatically re-enacts the crime scene and investigation of a police officer's murder in Dallas, Texas. Briefly, a drifter (Randall Adams) ran out of gas and was picked up by a 16-year-old runaway (David Harris). Later that night, they drank some beer, smoked some marijuana, and went to the movies. Then, their stories diverged. Adams claimed that he left for his motel, where he was staying with his brother, and went to sleep. Harris, however, said that they were stopped by police late that night, and Adams suddenly shot the officer approaching their car. The film shows the audience the evidence gathered by the police, who were under extreme pressure to clear the case. It strongly makes a point that the circumstantial evidence was very flimsy. In fact, it becomes apparent that Harris was a much more likely suspect and was in the middle of a crime spree, eventually ending up on Death Row himself for the later commission of other crimes. Morris implies that the DA's and the judge's desire for the death penalty in this case (for which Harris would have been ineligible because of his youth) made Adams a scapegoat on whom to pin this heinous crime.

  • Largely through interviews with the people involved and through reenactments, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris delves into the case that placed then twenty-seven year old drifter Randall Adams on Death Row, that sentence eventually commuted to life. The 1976 situation was what started out as a routine police stop of a vehicle for a traffic violation on a highway in Dallas County, the driver of that vehicle who shot the officer, Robert Wood, point blank twice resulting in Wood's death at the scene. Wood's female partner shot at the vehicle as it drove off after the shooting, she who did not see the driver. Through the evidence that he has amassed of the case, Morris posits that the actual person driving the car that night, and thus the shooter, was sixteen year old David Harris, who had met Adams for the first time the previous day. Morris lays out the foundation of the powers and probable reasons Adams was convicted, those items which were many which resulted in the perfect storm for that conviction. Morris also provides information on Harris' life before and after his encounter with Adams, who now has nothing to lose in arguably the reason why he cooperates with Morris in this movie.

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