The name Werner Herzog conjures so much awe and mythology that it’s almost hard to believe he has a four-part series on Investigation Discovery. But then you find out that the series is called On Death Row and is a companion to his recent film, Into the Abyss, that debuted to rave reviews with its exploration of prison life and the crushing ramifications of the death penalty. Premiering Friday, March 9 at 10pm ET/PT, the Academy Award-nominated Herzog uses On Death Row to take viewers still deeper into the heart of darkness.
German-born, Herzog respectfully disagrees with the concept of capital punishment, but in On Death Row, he eschews the political discussion in favor of exploring the emotions of those who are faced with the knowledge of their own expiration date, engaging them in intense discussions and witnessing their reactions. Four episodes encompass interviews with five inmates — one of whom was executed only last week.
On Death Row: James Barnes
Friday, March 9
Convicted of murder in 1998 after having hidden his wife’s corpse in a closet, James Barnes went to prison to serve out his sentence. While in prison, he converted to Islam, and during the holy month of Ramadan, confessed to the sexual assault and killing of Patricia Miller in 1988. Barnes pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death.
On Death Row: Linda Anita Carty
Friday, March 16
Linda Carty was convicted and put on death row in February 2002 for the murder of 25-year-old Joana Rodriguez, as part of an apparent plot with three co-conspirators to abduct Rodriguez’s four-day-old son. The victim was hog-tied with duct tape with a bag taped over her head and placed in the trunk of a car, leading to her suffocation. Carty has appealed her conviction tirelessly, but if she receives the punishment for which she is scheduled, she’ll be the first black British woman to have been executed in more than a century.
On Death Row: Joseph Garcia/George Rivas
Friday, March 23
At 19, after a night of binge drinking, Joseph Garcia repeatedly stabbed a man and earned himself a 50-year prison sentence. Six years in, he and six other inmates — a now-infamous gang known as the “Texas Seven” — went over the walls, but in the process, several escapees shot and killed a police officer. On their capture and conviction, all seven were given the death penalty. George Rivas, the alleged founder and leader of the group, was put to death by lethal injection just last week.
On Death Row: Hank Skinner
Friday, March 30
What first seemed an open-and-shut case is now open again. Hank Skinner was convicted of murdering Twila Busby and her two sons based in part on the evidence that he was found nearby with blood from the crime scene on his shirt. He received the death penalty. Protesting that insufficient DNA evidence had been presented, Skinner received a stay of execution from the Supreme Court just 45 minutes prior to his lethal injection was to take place. He’s still on death row in Texas, but new DNA testing is proceeding.
Photo: Investigation Discovery