The Innocence Files episode 6 recap and breakdown – positive identification

April 15, 2020
Daniel Hart 0
Netflix, TV Recaps
4

Summary

The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory” follows victim Janet Burke and convicted Thomas Haynesworth, both wronged by the system.

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4

Summary

The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory” follows victim Janet Burke and convicted Thomas Haynesworth, both wronged by the system.

This recap of Netflix series The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory” contains information regarding the subject matter. The episode discusses Thomas Haynesworth, a man accused of serial rape. The Innocence Project took on his cases to set him free.


Please note: some names were changed in this episode to protect some identities.

What’s the subject matter of The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory“?

The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory” really delves into how eyewitness identification works. The chapter begins with Janet Burke being asked to remember what she can in 1984. Episode 6 then states that testimonies are important and research shows a confident eyewitness is extremely persuasive in a trial. Of course, it’s easy to know that, but before watching this series, it wasn’t apparent how persuasive an eyewitness can be.

Episode 6 then discusses how the crime rate went up due to segregationist policies in Richmond.

In 1984, Janet Burke was driving into work, early morning, like a normal day. While in the office, a black male puts a knife to her throat and rapes her. Janet remembers trying to store as much information as possible because she was confident that she could identify him later.

There was a flurry of other cases and the police were under pressure — Episode 6 brings forth a scenario where white women were being preyed by black men, and with the media echoing that, the need to have a suspect was primary. When Janet came to the station, she looked at various photos and she was sure on one of them — Thomas Haynesworth, but her identification is coupled with the fact that eyewitnesses are always under a lot of pressure to identify. Identifying objects is much different from identifying faces — there are various factors.

We have to remember that before DNA, eyewitness statements were likely to be the determining factor in prosecuting a suspect. The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory” sees Janet Burke 100% sure that Thomas Haynesworth was the man, pointing him out in court and he is soon convicted. As a felon, the other cases, barring one, do not fall in his favor — it’s easier to convict a man who is already charged with rape.

Episode 6 then shows how similar rapes continued, despite Thomas Haynesworth sitting in prison. There’s a real sense of race played in the media — it’s a “black men preying on white women” rather than “we got the right guy” scenario.

What is the basis that Thomas Haynesworth is innocent The Innocence Files episode 6?

The changing point of this case was that the police arrested another man named Leon Davis for rape and he got given four life terms. Janet felt no connection to the photo of Leon. The Innocence Files episode 6 confirms that eyewitness memory can be made of errors after trauma — victims usually focus on weapons instead so the identification is decreased.

In 2000, DNA exoneration cases started surfacing and audits were done to review judicial outcomes. In 2007, Thomas’s DNA is excluded from his first crime. The authorities then speak to Janet, explaining that her rape kit has been retested and that Thomas Haynesworth is not her attacker — the DNA matched Leon Davis.

What’s interesting is that the victim now feels guilty; it’s a horrible scenario where the system has failed both of them. Janet immediately started making connections as soon as the authorities confirmed that Thomas did not rape her.

But worrisomely, and maybe an indictment to the ragged nature of the system, it was still difficult to free Thomas. The trend and patterns of all the cases made it look like Thomas was innocent and Leon Davis was the serial rapist. Even the attorney general was on the side of Thomas. The main issue was finding a way to overcome the eyewitness testimony.

What was the outcome of episode 6?

The Innocence Files episode 6, “The Witness: Making Memory” shows 10 appellate judges reviewing Thomas’s appeal process and at least six judges need to approve in order for them to free him. The Innocence Project took the cases to the judges. Surprisingly, the judges started to act irrationally because the women who made their statements did not recant. At least six of the judges approved the appeal and Thomas was declared an innocent man — he was freed on his 46th birthday.

Any other observations?

  • An expert discusses how cross-racial identification also plays a part. It’s difficult for a white person to see differences in black people when identifying — this is common when cross-racial is a factor in cases.
  • Janet feels she was a victim that caused harm to someone else. Janet and Thomas met each other later in life at a group session. Janet found it healing meeting Thomas. Thomas believes they were both victims of the system.
  • 9 years after his conviction, a parole hearing wanted Thomas to confess to the crimes.
  • Thomas did a polygraph and the polygrapher said, “this ain’t your guy”.
  • After being freed, Thomas was overwhelmed by the media.

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