Split across four episodes, Netflix’s latest true crime series is a provocative, emotionally stirring documentary designed to get the blood boiling. From officers laughing at footage of a woman being set on fire to touch DNA experts indifferently shrugging at the inaccuracy of using mixed DNA, Exhibit A is certainly going to be a polarizing documentary series. However, this does set the foundation for a deeper look at the misuse of forensic evidence, pedaling a familiar message around police obscuring evidence and wrongly convicting people.
From blood spatters at crime scenes to the use of CCTV footage, Exhibit A dives deeply into different forms of evidence used by police to convict felons. Only, sometimes this evidence can be obscured or used in the police’s favour to convict the person they most likely suspect has committed the crime. The first episode sees questionable surveillance from a corner store being used to convict a man far taller than that depicted on film whereas another episode sees police dogs misused to go after the Father of a missing daughter.
The episodes themselves follow a similar pattern, beginning with experts giving their opinion on the different forms of evidence, with a brief history lesson on its origin. From here, we then dive into an individual case where that particular DNA has been misused. Exhibit A blends face to face interviews with forensic experts as well as the people convicted and their friends and family. We also see archival footage from the time, with some episodes even showing TV news footage. It’s a similar format to what we’ve seen in numerous other true crime documentaries before but the deeper analysis of each type of forensic evidence does offer enough originality to keep things fresh.
There are some nice explanations around how each of these forms of evidence are used too which is certainly a welcome inclusion. One such example shows four or five songs playing simultaneously and tasking us with picking out each individual track. This, in turn, is then shown to explain how touch DNA can be so difficult to use in these cases. It’s a small inclusion but these explanations go far to show how difficult and unreliable they can be to use. For that alone, Exhibit A is worth checking out if you can look past some of the questionable scenes and retreading of familiar ground.
Netflix are world-renowned for bringing these cutting edge documentaries to their streaming platform and have certainly gained a lot of traction for doing so. Having said that, Exhibit A feels like a very familiar documentary that doesn’t really offer much that we haven’t seen before elsewhere. The Confession Tapes and Making A Murderer are certainly examples of police corruption, whilst When They See Us is the most recent dramatic example of this in action too. Compared to those offerings, Exhibit A doesn’t really show us anything all that new but for true crime fans, Exhibit A should have just enough to keep you engaged through the four episodes.