Stephen Bright

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Deadline Review


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You know, frankly I still don't know where I stand on capital punishment. On the one hand, if I was wrongfully accused of committing a crime, I'd probably prefer not to be killed for it. At the same time, I don't have a problem with the execution of mass murderers like John Wayne Gacy, a point that one pundit eloquently makes in the new documentary, Deadline.In a nutshell, the film is a retrospective look at Illinois Governer George Ryan, a former pharmacist and remarkably down to earth gentleman, who, as one of his last acts before leaving office in early 2003, commuted the sentence of every prisoner on death row to life in prison. In broader strokes, the film discusses the death penalty in general, asking whether it's relevant or appropriate in a superpower like America. (According to the film, the U.S. is #3 in executions behind China and Iran.)

The film is indeed partisan, as you might expect, and it offers plenty of testimony from convicted innocents and even families of murdered victims -- all of whom rail against the death penalty. There unfortunately isn't much of a plea here aside from the oft-visited notions that a) execution is cruel and unusual punishment and b) it does nothing to ease the pain of the survivors. Most of the film is content to rehash various cases wherein the wrongly convicted are finally deemed innocent -- further proof that a death sentence is a bad thing.

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