Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life debuted in September 2011 to rave reviews and festival buzz from Telluride to Toronto. Exploring the intricate details and emotional aftermath of a triple homicide in Conroe, Texas, Herzog sought to better understand the impact of life in prison and the shattering effects of the death penalty. Of the two young perpetrators featured in the film, one will spend most of his life in prison while the other was executed just eight days after his interview with Herzog.
In this four-part companion television series, created by Herzog exclusively for Investigation Discovery, the Academy-Award nominated filmmaker dives deeper into the abyss of the human soul. Through interviews with five additional inmates awaiting their appointment with a lethal injection in the Texas and Florida prison systems, Herzog conducts a uniquely thought-provoking analysis of why people, and the state, kill. On Death Row makes its world premiere on Investigation Discovery, premiering Friday, March 9 at 10 PM ET/PT.
"We were incredibly honored to work with Werner over the past two years, both on the theatrical documentary and on this emotionally compelling and, ultimately, disturbing television series," said Henry S. Schleiff, president and general manager, Investigation Discovery, Military Channel and Planet Green. "His interview style produces some of the most intimate and interesting portraits of perpetrators I've seen in my decades in television. I was haunted by the depths of human evil portrayed, and I look forward to sharing this truly contemplative series with our audience."
Each episode of On Death Row features an intense interview with a death row inmate to hear their own account of life in captivity and the crime that condemned them. While German-born Herzog respectfully disagrees with capital punishment, the series is not focused on the politics surrounding the death penalty. Instead, in true Herzog style, he explores the emotions that these men and women go through as they possess the haunting knowledge of exactly when - and how - they are going to die.
The interview subjects include:
James Barnes: After hiding his wife's corpse in the closet, James Barnes was convicted of murder in 1998. While in prison, Barnes converted to Islam and, during the holy month of Ramadan, confessed to a previous murder - the gruesome homicide of Patricia Miller in 1988. Barnes broke into Miller's home, where he sexually assaulted and bludgeoned her to death. To cover up his crime, Barnes set fire to the bed to which Miller was bound. Barnes pled guilty to the murder and was sentenced to death.
Joseph Garcia/George Rivas: Joseph Garcia was only 19 years old when he repeatedly stabbed a man after a night of heavy drinking and a jury sentenced him to 50 years. Despairing after six years behind bars, Garcia joined the "Texas Seven." This now infamous gang was allegedly formed by George Rivas, a man whose record includes numerous counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping with a deadly weapon. The group escaped the prison walls but while on the run, several of the escapees shot and killed a police officer. As a result, all of the convicts were given the death penalty.
Hank Skinner: The brutal murder of Twila Busby and her two sons seemed easy to solve. Hank Skinner was found nearby with blood from the crime scene on his shirt. After a trial, Skinner was given the death penalty. Skinner protested, complaining that DNA tests had not been performed on many crucial bits of evidence. He was scheduled to be executed in March 2010 but, just 45 minutes before the lethal injection, the Supreme Court stayed his sentence - and Skinner was notified of the stay just 23 minutes before his scheduled execution. While he remains on death row in Texas, new DNA testing is moving forward.
Linda Anita Carty: Linda Carty was convicted and sentenced to death in February 2002 for the murder of 25-year-old Joana Rodriguez, allegedly in order to steal her four-day-old son. On May 16, 2001, Carty organized three co-defendants to invade Rodriguez's home. The young mother was hog-tied with duct tape and placed in the trunk of a car. A bag was taped over her head and she died from suffocation. Carty claims she is innocent and has appealed exhaustively against her conviction. Barring the granting of clemency, she stands to become the first black British woman to be executed in more than a century.
On Death Row is written and directed by Werner Herzog and produced by Erik Nelson of Creative Differences. For Investigation Discovery, Henry S. Schleiff and Sara Kozak are executive producers.