The Fear of 13 full movie review - An extraordinary and harrowing tale of the struggle of a man to clear himself
**** SPOILER ALERT -- THIS SUMMARY CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS ****
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I am vehemently opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances. What I found extraordinary about Yarris's account is the dispassionate manner in which he tells his story, in the form of interviews and flashbacks to past events. Yarris is no choirboy -- this is made very clear when Yarris describes his successful escape from death row during the course of a transfer, and his time spent on the lam committing auto theft, robbery, and other serious crimes.
Yet Yarris draws the viewer into his tale, in which the viewer learns about the botched handling of DNA evidence, which became available in the 1990s and which resulted in literally hundreds of prisoners (many on death row) across the nation being released from prison EVERY YEAR following the reversal of their convictions.
We learn of Yarris's self-motivation and his ultimate success in teaching himself to read and to understand complex words, and his subsequent immersion into the world of books (thrillers, suspense novels, and nonfiction accounts -- one nonfiction account named "Crime and Punishment!").
Yarris describes the manner in which he was prosecuted for assaulting a police officer, attempted murder of a police officer, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, and other charges stemming from his recapture. Clearly, Yarris is not the model prisoner or model citizen one would wish to have as a next door neighbor.
But the inexcusable screw-ups in the handling of DNA evidence which finally exculpated Yarris make it clear that our criminal justice system is far from perfect, and that innocent people can and do get convicted, causing one to speculate as to the number of actually, factually innocent prisoners who have been executed, particularly in the decades before DNA evidence became available.
At no point does Yarris engage in bathos or naked attempts to appeal to emotions. His account is calm, collected, and coherent at all times. Even his ultimate vindication and the reversal of his conviction are described without much emotion.
What becomes clear is the psychological cost of sexual assault which is not addressed by therapeutic intervention (in this case, of Yarris himself as a youth). The writer was also left with serious doubts as to whether or not conditions on Pennsylvania's death row comport with Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.