In the not-too-distant past, documentaries took down theme parks and McDonald's menus. Now, thanks to the current wave of "true-crime" mania, the American justice system makes for a meatier subject.
By highlighting flaws in the system, true-crime films, TV series, and podcasts can have a major effect on the criminal trials they dissect -- and as in the case of Making a Murderer's youngest defendant, a well-told narrative can motivate courts to change their minds. The following documentaries were so eyebrow-raising, they freed innocent men and put killers behind bars.
Making a Murderer
Netflix can now add "courtroom influencer" to its packed resume. Eight months after Making a Murderer debuted on the service, a Milwaukee judge seemed to side with outraged viewers, overturning the flimsy conviction keeping one of the docuseries' stars in prison. Once Making a Murderer gained momentum, lawyers for Brendan Dassey, who with his uncle Steven Avery was convicted of murdering Teresa Halbach in 2007, filed a federal appeal, in which they argued that Dassey's confession had been coerced. A judge agreed, and Dassey eagerly awaits the approval of the prosecution's filed appeal (and the series' Season 2, for that matter). As for Dassey's uncle, Avery's conviction still stands, but that could change in the coming months.