POV Explores Death Penalty, Aftermath of Ferguson
For 20 years, Lindy has lived with an unbearable feeling of guilt. Committed to fulfilling her civic duty, Lindy sat with 11 other people on a jury that handed down the death penalty to a Mississippi man convicted of a double homicide. An overwhelming feeling of regret compels Lindy to track down her fellow jurors. A conservative, religious woman from the South, she manages to tackle this topic with humor, an open mind, and sincere curiosity.
Lindy Lou: Juror Number Two airs Tuesday, July 17 at 11:00 p.m on KUED as part of POV, PBS's acclaimed independent film series. Struck by the visceral attachment many U.S. citizens have to the death penalty, filmmaker Florence Vassault wanted to ask "what becomes of such a belief after being confronted with the reality of a death sentence?
"Lindy Lou, Juror Number Two is a film that deals with the criminal justice system in an unusual way," says filmmaker Vassault. "It is not about the murderer or the murders themselves, nor is it about the victims or the investigators. It is about us, about our moral responsibility when the state gives the people the power to decide about someone's life."
Jurors are an essential element of the criminal justice system, but no one knows how they feel after leaving the courthouse. More than twenty years after serving on such a jury, Lindy Lou is still struggling with the idea that she had a hand in a man's death. A strong supporter of capital punishment when she entered the courtroom — an "eye for an eye person," as she says — she became its collateral victim as she realized she had set an execution in motion and wondered whether her life would ever be normal again.
There was no doubt about the killer's guilt in a brutal double homicide. Lindy's ordeal lies on a moral level: What legitimacy did she have to decide the fate of a man? She questions the morality of being allowed to send someone to his death, and as of today she still has not found an answer.
"Meeting Lindy Lou was a gift," says Vassault. "A gun-toting Baptist Republican, she is part of an America that is often stereotyped, and she certainly shook up all the preconceived ideas I had. As conservative as she is, she had the courage to question her beliefs and to admit that sometimes the world is more complex than she wanted it to be. As she met with her fellow jurors, I admired her ability to listen, and I was startled to see that many had almost never talked about this experience."
Vassault says that while filming, she realized that although Lindy raised the question of their common responsibility, she also recreated a sense of community among her fellow jurors.
Another POV documentary, Whose Streets? airing Tuesday, July 31 at 11:00 p.m. on KUED, looks at another divisive issue from a very personal standpoint. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of the St. Louis area and beyond. Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson, Missouri uprising. As the national guard rolls in, a new generation mounts a powerful battle cry not just for their civil rights, but for the right to live.
Filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis explore the mediascape Americans experience everyday that "humanizes whiteness, delving into the emotional lives of privileged white protagonists while portraying people of color as two-dimensional and mostly negative stereotypes." Nowhere, they say, was this more apparent than in the case of Mike Brown who, despite being college-bound and well regarded by his community, was portrayed as a "thug" and a "criminal" after a white police officer shot and killed him in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014."
As all eyes turned to the protests, the grand jury, and the response to the non-indictment, people became desensitized to the scenes of chaos. "The dehumanization of Mike Brown was perpetrated by his murderer, perpetuated by the media and reinforced by violent police repression of his community," say the filmmakers, calling what happened "a modern-day lynching."
Intimately aware of how black people are portrayed in the media, the filmmakers, saw it as essential that "black people be the ones to tell our own story."
"We made this film, in part, as a tribute to our people — our deeply complex, courageous, flawed, powerful, and ever hopeful people —who dare to dream of brighter days," they say. "This is more than a documentary — this is a story we personally lived. This is our story to tell."