In the justice system of America, a confession is one of many legal tools in the prosecution of crimes. What if the confession was false, or simply coerced? These scenarios are presented within “The Confession Tapes”, a 2017 documentary series exploring crime cases where law enforcement uses creative, albeit questionable, interrogation tactics. Is it justified, or is it one of the many symptoms of a flawed system?
The documentary series covers six cases over seven episodes, each trailing around 45-50 minutes as each case is explored. The pacing of each episode is slow, but the pacing is consistent enough to keep the viewer’s interest as the cases are explored. Each episode is structured in the same manner that typical real-life crime shows such as “48 Hours”. The segments bounce back and forth between law enforcement, reporters, friends, the families affected by the crime, and the convicted murderers themselves. These multiple viewpoints help to enable the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of the investigation. In doing so, we can understand the story of those affected by these questionable confessions and maybe why they happen in the first place.
The documentary is well composed in their choice of shots, combining atmospheric establishing shots as well as making sure it doesn’t detract or heavily contrast with the talking head segments. It is also interesting how the series incorporates police videos of the confessions and interrogations, but those new to crime shows might want to pay attention during these parts due to the audio being slightly muffled compared to the regular audio of the show.
There’s surprisingly not many things that could end up being a problem. The only thing that the show might benefit from is greater length, more room for the creators to explore cases in depth. We also don’t get to see a lot more cases due to the brevity. Hopefully, we will get to see more content in future seasons. It doesn’t help that two of the seven episodes are for one case, while the rest are one-offs of other cases.
Those who decide to watch “The Confession Tapes” will find a very interesting series in the works. With another season, the production team will be able to take on more cases and help to inspire people to ponder on what our justice systems does to obtain confessions. Is it ethical what these officers do, and is justice truly being solved? It might be up to us as citizens and the next generation of criminal justice to find that answer.