Presumed Guilty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Presumed Guilty 

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Michael Niederman's hour-long Chicago-made documentary about the 1968 murder trial and conviction of Dr. John Branion Jr. The film does an excellent job of persuading us that Branion was convicted of killing his wife on the basis of insubstantial, inconclusive, and even contradictory evidence, largely because of an inadequate defense and the various racial tensions that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King (Branion is black). The fact that Branion skipped bail and fled to Africa for many years has dissuaded various judges from retrying his case, in spite of the fact that virtually no one now believes that Branion was guilty as charged. Although this is much more simply made than, say, The Thin Blue Line, the facts and implications are equally disturbing, and Niederman does a fine job of juggling interviews (including one with Oscar Brown Jr., the first cousin of Branion's murdered wife) with other elements in building his case. A Chicago premiere. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Saturday, May 12, 8:00 and 9:15, 281-8788)

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