HOLLYWOOD─If there was ever anything I learned as a film student is that you can never trust a documentary fully. Why? It is simple, many tend to have bias or lean in one direction or another versus the others. They tend to favor or place things on a spotlight that is beneficial to the goal that the filmmakers may have in mind. However, when I first witnessed the trailer for the Showtime documentary “Outcry” I don’t know what to say beyond I knew I had to watch it. Something struck me noting I HAD to watch it and man am I glad I did.
Look, I will be the first to admit, the subject matter is not for everyone it involves some material that many people wince or shy away from including myself. It involves the sexual assault on a child, and the viewer is immediately placed in this dichotomy on rather to believe the victim, in this case, one at first, then a second accuser came forward, so the suspect, in this case is high school football star, Greg Kelley. The accusations have to be true right?
At first it does, but the documentary, which is presented in five parts layers out plenty and I mean plenty of detail. The documentary gives the audience a well-fleshed backstory about Greg’s life and upbringing in the town of Leander, Texas, and that is thanks to director Pat Kondelis. Pat attempted to get interviews with MANY of the players involved in this complicated case, some had no problem giving interviews, others shied away, likely because they didn’t want to be confronted with certain things that transpired during the investigation and the trial.
All was looking great for Greg in terms of his athletic career until accusations of him molesting a child at the home of a family friend threw his life into a tailspin. Greg pleaded his innocence, his high school sweetheart Gaebri stood behind his side, as did her parents, a vast majority of the community and Greg’s family. However, that was not enough. The evidence presented by the Williamson County District Attorney was shoddy at best, and just makes one question the legitimacy of the legal system.
How could such loopholes and interviewing tactics and procedures be allowed? I mean a child being questioned without their parent present, a detective inserting a new suspect, yet never disclosing it, the recanting of accusations from a second child, not having the so called suspect be identified by his accuser. This documentary upset me, it scared me and it angered me at the same time. Why? You have a man whose life was totally upended based on a flawed investigation, why the victim(s) still have not gotten justice for the believed suspect, who I will not disclose, but it’s obvious from watching the first part of the documentary.
I cannot even explain if this was technique by the director or that it was a guy feeling that even if one wanted to run away from, it was impossible. I knew in my soul as soon as they started conversations about a team player of Greg’s on the football, that this guy may have been culpable in what transpired. Call it instinct people.
Keith Hampton, Greg’s attorney, fought hard and long to get justice for his client, who never waived from his innocence. When he was found guilty, it was alarming that Greg allowed his family to decide for him to take a 25 year sentence versus a potential appeal. Greg didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t want the notion of never seeing his family again, even though his girlfriend acknowledged for him not to plead guilty for a crime that he know he did not commit. Watching the court testimony of Detective Chris Dailey as all the loopholes were exposed was just unfathomable to watch. He looked flustered, nervous and knew he screwed up while conducting his investigation, and the walk of shame he took leaving the courtroom said it all.
I mean I was so riveted by the first part of this documentary I watched all five parts in a single night, back-to-back in the wee hours, even though I slightly cheated by seeing what ultimately transpired with Greg Kelley and the case online. I wanted to have all the puzzle pieces at my fingertips. Anyone who knows me are well aware, I don’t binge watch anything. Why? Something has to be so good or riveting that I cannot take my eyes away from the screen and I want to witness more unfold. The only other TV show where this has happened is “Insecure” and “Breaking Bad.”
I mean Greg’s own original defense attorney Patricia Cummings, got her hand caught in the cookie jar and did all in her power to wiggle herself out of a dicey situation and it was apparent she was busted red-handed. It blew my mind, it blew my mind and I was speechless. The legal system has so many flaws, how in the hell is any American citizen supposed to trust it, especially if you know beyond a reasonable doubt that you are innocent of a crime. Yet in the eyes of the court and the public, you’re guilty before the evidence is even presented to exonerate you. Another bombshell that came together was if you take a look at Greg’s photo and his pal, Jonathan McCarty’s photo they are closely identical, it would be difficult for a 4 year-old child to differentiate the two teens from one another.
There are indeed moments throughout the documentary where as a viewer you start to question if Greg could be guilty because new details in the case are unearthed that raise a few red flags. So you’re not 100 percent certain of his innocence at times, but I think the thing I find most frustrating is how so many players in this unbelievable tale ignored evidence that was sitting right in front of their eyes or refused to acknowledge it.
Rather it’s the members of city council, the police department, the district attorney’s office, I mean it makes you see people in a new light and just continues to raise that question rather people will fully do their job or turn the other cheek depending on the person or people involved. The one thing “Outcry” reiterated for me is how flawed our legal system is and how unreliable a jury trial can be. I mean that one juror who was the sole person refusing to say ‘guilty’ because he was not certain that Greg Kelley was guilty of molesting that child. Due to pressure of others who wanted to go home and were tired, he decided to go with the masses.
Does that not scare you? It scares me and I recall encountering a similar situation as a juror where people wanted to just go home and say guilty because they didn’t want to be there, but there were two jurors, myself and another who REFUSED because we knew someone’s freedom was at stake. “Outcry” reiterates that notion, the legal system not just in the courts, but with the authorities is so flawed that we need to fix it.
Having the fate of someone’s life and freedom placed in the hands of a person who doesn’t care, is only concerned about his or her reputation or just have a clean record is problematic. I don’t know what to say to fix it, but we have to do better America, not just to ensure innocent people are not convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, but to ensure the actual culprits are arrested and jailed to prevent them from harming others. The five-part series airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.