The Last Defense: Examining Flaws in the Legal Justice System

On June 6, 1996, the unthinkable happened. Two young boys were attacked and killed inside their home in Texas by an unknown assailant. Their mother, a bubbly blond, was brutally stabbed in the arm and in the neck, but miraculously survived. That was just the beginning of the nightmare for the Routier family. Within a month, Darlie Routier, the mom, was accused of killing her sons; and within eight months was found guilty of their murders.

Crime Scene Tape

For Julius Jones, a black college kid with an academic scholarship in Oklahoma, being charged with killing a white man for his Chevy Suburban came as a total shock, especially since he was at home with his mother, father, sister, and brother the night of the murder. But circumstance, lies, and bad luck conspired against him and he was convicted of first degree murder.

Julius Tennon and Viola Davis (Photo: ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua)

Twenty-one years later, Darlie is still on death row. Julius has been incarcerated for 18 years and is currently awaiting an execution date. This is where Executive Producers Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon (JuVee Productions) pick up their stories. Their seven-part docuseries examines both of these cases in detail using an intricately woven mix of interviews, forensic evidence, re-enactments, and heartbreaking home videos and photos. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, police informants, journalists, jurors, nurses, forensic scientists, investigators, and family members all weigh in on the crime and the punishment with insight and honesty. And each case is brought to life in a way that allows viewers to actually become a part of the discovery process, and to decide for themselves whether the verdicts rendered were just.

Crime Scene Reenactment: Richard Smith, Stephen Cooper, Terry Laber, and Bart Epstein (Lincoln Square Productions)

What these two cases have in common is a rush to judgement, spurred on by communities in a panic to solve the murders and solve them quickly. In both cases, profiling and prejudice played a large part. And both defenses were characterized by a lack of time, resources, preparation, investigation and follow through.

But why follow up now; and in this manner? As Julius Tennon put it, “Their stories need to be told. These are stories that effect real people, real families”. And Davis adds, “It’s about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in an America that is as good as its promises … America cannot be great until it’s great for everyone”.

The Last Defense can be seen Tuesday nights at 10 pm. on ABC.

Top photo: Darlie Routier
Lincoln Square Productions

About Paula M. Levine (20 Articles)
Paula is an award-winning writer, producer, and storyteller who has spent over twenty years producing news, feature stories, documentaries, and web content. Since 2014, she has also taught Writing and Media Relations at NYU in their Masters Program in PR and Corporate Communication. In her "copious spare time", she runs, bikes, and swims; and has completed 7 NYC Marathons.