’s “Profile Of Filmmaker Errol Morris” Essay, Research Paper
Chaim H. Respes
September 16, 1999
Summary of Mark Singer’s
“Profile of Filmmaker Errol Morris”
Dallas police officer, Robert Wood, was shot five times and murdered after pulling over a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. Randall Dale Adams was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death for the crime. Adams plead “not guilty” to the charges. He claimed 16 year old David Harris, whom he had spent several hours with on the day of the crime, was the true killer.
In Mark Singer’s “Profile of Filmmaker Errol Morris,” Singer describes Randall Adams case as it was portrayed in the movie The Thin Blue Line. Singer argues that Morris made the film to prove Adams innocence and illustrate “that Adams had received anything but a fair trial.” Singer, an author for The New Yorker Magazine, took personal interest in the case because he, as well as Morris, believed Adams was innocent and deserved a new and fair trial.
The prosecution won the case against Adams for three major reasons: David Harris’ testimony, Prosecutor Douglas Mulder’s prominence, determination, and the prosecutions three key eyewitnesses, Emily Miller, Robert Miller, and Michael Randell.
After the conclusion of the trial Adams maintained his innocence and filmmaker, Errol Morris met with David Harris and began to have doubts about Adams guilt. Morris investigated the case further and discovered it was “unfair” on constitutional grounds and Adams was in fact innocent.
Morris made a movie entitled The Thin Blue Line, which was a description of the actual events in the Adams homicide case. Morris intended to illustrate thirteen points of unwarranted prosecution.
There were four blatant acts of perjury or outright unfairness in Adams first trial. Judge Metcalf would not permit the use David Harris’ extensive previous criminal record, including pending charges in another county as evidence. This left Adams in the “guilty chair” even before the trial began. Prosecutor Mulder demanded a guilty verdict with a death penalty sentence for this trial and he was willing to go to any length to achieve that. He found three witnesses to the crime scene after offering a $20,000 reward and an all expense paid stay at Dallas motel during the trial. The first witness, Emily Miller, had a daughter who was facing robbery charges in another county and Mulder agreed to drop the charges in exchange for Emily’s testimony. Emily testified to witnessing Adams in the driver’s seat of the car, at the time of the shooting, and she positively identified Adams in a police line-up. Morris conducted interview with the three witnesses, Emily Miller, Robert Miller and Michael Randell. Emily Miller admitted to being directed to pick Adams in the line-up after she chose the wrong man. Robert Miller was quoted as saying; “I didn’t see anything.” Randell admitted to being drunk “out of his mind” when he passed the scene. The fourth major point of perjury in Morris’ defense for Adams was Teresa Turko’s, Robert Woods’ partner, original description of the killer. She described him as “Mexican or light-skinned black” which varied greatly from Adams Caucasian skin. Her original description was not used and had evolved to match Adams description by the time of the trial.
The Thin Blue Line was effective in getting Adams a writ hearing and the chance for a new trial. The judge ruled on six grounds of constitutional unfairness deeming it an unjust trial.
It was apparent that Singer was on the side of the defense for several reasons. Singer said, “Dennis White (Adams attorney) was simply no match for Doug Mulder, who is said to have once boasted, “Anybody can convict a guilty man. It takes talent to convict an innocent man.” He includes this quote to demonstrate Mulder’s determination to win even if he is prosecuting the wrong man. A quote such as that evokes the sentiment of a reader who is in favor upholding justice.
Throughout the excerpt Singer uses words like, “unfortunately” to depict actions Adams’ lawyers did not take, and “ensconced” to describe the so-called witnesses stay at the Alamo Plaza motel. Singer recognized Adams bad luck and referred to it as “consistent.” These words and phrases are influential in expressing his opinion because they have negative connotations and portray the prosecution in a bad light.
Singer’s distaste for “witness” Emily Miller is very clear. He describes her as a “bleached blonde” and says one of her childhood ambitions was to be the “?wife of a detective.” A woman who is willing to settle for the position of wife to her goals, is not a beneficial member to society. Singer makes it a point to quote Emily’s interview with Morris because it shows her ignorance. She did not use proper English and stumbled over her words in brief and barely coherent sentences.
Singer concludes his passage by detailing the writ judges predictions. The judge predicted a new trial for Adams during which he would be freed and pardoned of all homicide charges.
“Profile of Filmmaker Errol Morris” is effective in displaying the actual events in the Adams homicide case. Mark Singer summarizes the movie The Thin Blue Line and includes his opinion about the verdict. The movie was intended to prove Adams innocence by displaying the perjury committed during the trial. Singer included his beliefs in Adams innocence by using negative words towards the prosecution and bad-mouthing the witnesses.