I finished watching Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, a true-crime documentary about the murder of a French TV producer murdered in a sort of hippy/bohemian part of Ireland.
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it, not because too lurid or sensational or whatever, like some true crime stuff is, but because it’s intentionally deceptive and disingenuous in a way that genuinely reflects poorly on the documentary makers. Like it’s one thing to have a perspective, that’s fine, but to carefully avoid pointing the legal realities of the situation, even they explain the entire situation, and would add masses of clarity to the documentary - at the cost of making it less dramatic - and when you’re accusing someone of murder - that’s crossing a line, a like a bad line, that makes you maybe not really a documentarian any more, and more of a film-maker with an agenda.
And it’s a pity because, as a documentary, it’s generally pretty well-done. The interviews are pretty good, they get a lot out of people they talk to, it’s well-edited, there’s good use of a lot of footage and the story is told in a well-paced way.
But there are these two huge, like vital legal issues that are completely unmentioned, and worse, would probably escape a lot of legal laymen audiences.
Specifically, literally virtually all the actual evidence that points to a specific person (who the documentary is very sure did it), is hearsay. There’s two other pieces of evidence, a terrible childlike drawing of “scratches” which was inexplicably not a photograph (in 1996), and a witness ID, which was retracted and kind of dubious at best (in that it was so odd it didn’t really support the case). But the main point is, all this evidence is hearsay, and not really admissible (or very little weight can be put on it) in any actual court of law, and AFAIK, they never call it that, nor explain the concept, nor explain why this “mountain of evidence” as some of the French people involved say is not evidence at all
Secondly, there’s a trial in absentia, and the whole documentary acts as it’s weird and unusual that Ireland doesn’t recognise this, when in fact most countries don’t recognise them, and the best possible way to void a European Arrest Warrant, is to hold in a trial in absentia (I note the French appear to have made zero effort to obtain an EAW, presumably knowing their evidence was pathetic). Only countries that regularly engage in wild miscarriages of justice, like France and Italy seem to do trials in absentia. Italy, one of the most corrupt and dishonest legal systems in the Western world (literally there are third-world countries with a better-run judicial system), particularly likes them. Britain, Ireland, and other countries with actual justice systems tend not to recognise them at all. It’s not special to this case. It’s absolutely normal - it would beyond bizarre if they did recognise it, especially as it appears the trial convicted entirely on the basis of hearsay evidence not admissible in proper courts.
There are three episodes and the first two were decent but the last is so focused on this stuff, and so focused on this hearsay and trial in absentia that it’s beyond the pale not note these issues, especially when talking to a layman audience.
(I should note the guy they accuse is certainly the most likely suspect, but it’s like based on the evidence, you’d never get a Irish, British, or American jury to convict, even you could somehow get it admitted (which you couldn’t), because it’s like 55% likely, which is so many miles short of our standards of proof. And he’s also the only suspect - the Irish police didn’t even bother to try and find any other suspects, like they made zero effort - they barely even got this guy except by the witness who retracted her evidence.)