EXCLUSIVE: Errol Morris, who made his name with Texas true-crime documentary The Thin Blue Line, is heading back to the Lone Star state for his latest project.
Morris will exec produce a docuseries End of Sentence with Rebel Hearts producer Anchor Entertainment and director Zo Wesson about the case of Benjamine Spencer.
Spencer is an innocent Black man who served 34 years of a life-prison sentence for a murder he did not commit.
The project is based on Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s reporting in The Atlantic.
It comes four decades after Spencer’s conviction for the robbery and murder of the 33-year-old Dallas executive Jeffrey Young – a crime he maintains he did not perpetrate throughout his defense and subsequent appeals.
The first act of the project will open on March 12, 2021, the day the district attorney releases Spencer from prison for receiving an unfair trial that led to a conviction based on demonstrably false testimony. But what should have been a day of triumph is marred by a looming threat: If a court of criminal appeals overturns the decision, Spencer will return to prison; if it upholds it, the district attorney must decide whether he wants to retry him, or dismiss the charges based on actual innocence.
Morris’ recent projects include Netflix’s Wormwood and FX’s A Wilderness of Error.
Anchor Entertainment is behind Discovery+’s Rebel Hearts and HBO’s Undercurrent: The Disappearance of Kim Wall. Ethan Goldman and Keayr Braxton will exec produce for Anchor Entertainment alongside Errol Morris.
Errol Morris said, “I hate to use scare quotes but there’s no other way to talk about ‘justice’ in Texas. Benjamine Spencer’s story picks up where The Thin Blue Line left off. As Randall Adams was walking out of prison, Spencer was being sentenced to life by the same people who helped ensure Adams’s conviction. Both men were innocent. But one remained in prison for decades. End of Sentence is a sickening, uncannily familiar tale: the particulars are different, but the tragedy is the same.”
“While his injustice feels familiar, End of Sentence will document Benjamine’s personal story of struggle, despair and hope while meticulously tracing evidence from the late 80s to reveal an alternate theory that very well may prove his innocence and secure an exoneration” said Ethan Goldman, Founder and CEO of Anchor Entertainment.
Director Zo Wesson added, “A big reason I identified with Ben Spencer’s story is that early in my career I did a lot of production work in Texas where I would commute between Las Colinas and Fort Worth. During routine stops, I was often met with suspicious eyes, and I remember thinking that if I was falsely arrested there I wouldn’t have a chance, just like Benjamine. Back then, Texas’s slogan was ‘It’s Like a Whole Other Country,’ and as a Black man, that’s exactly how I felt. As a filmmaker of color, I believe we must persist in challenging this reality.”