Movie Review: Trial By Fire


Getting thrown into jail for something you did not do is bad enough for any human being to live through, but to be put on death row when you are innocent is for most of us a fate worse than death. What the new movie “Trial By Fire” shows better than just about any movie I have ever seen is a true story of massive injustice. The main character Cameron Todd Willingham, played very well by Jack O’Connell was railroaded onto death row in Texas for arson and the murder of his 3 young children, even though he was completely innocent.

The corrupt court system in Texas in the early 1990’s that illegally forced an innocent man onto death row by convicting him of arson and the murder of his 3 infant children was one of the most outrageous stories of incompetence and the treatment of the poor that I have ever seen. Witnesses were paid off and given reduced sentences, Willingham’s lawyer did not care enough to do his job at all, the arson experts who testified that the fire was set on purpose were 100% wrong. Despite all of this Willingham was on death row for 12 years until Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Laura Dern, through a series of letters became involved with Willingham’s case. Gilbert’s efforts over several years eventually became more desperate as Willingham’s execution date became closer and her realization that nobody in charge cared enough to help an innocent man.

The state of Texas has executed more people than any other state for many years and this movie showed at the end that as many as 158 people in recent years, were days away from being executed before new evidence was found to save them. In the case of something as extreme as the death penalty, killing another human being should not only be the last resort, it should be something that happens only when all avenues of evidence and doubt have been completely exhausted. Unfortunately because of the politics and corrupt, incompetent people in charge, too many innocent people have been put to death in this country.

I thought that this movie was very well done, despite the low 61% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and I give a strong recommendation to this film.

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