ACCUSED OF ‘KILLING’ THEIR OWN CHILDREN: TWO DOCUMENTARIES BY JULIAN SHER INVESTIGATE SHOCKING CASES OF WRONGFUL CONVICTION ON GLOBAL TELEVISION’S ‘REVEALED’ SERIES
A MOTHER’S ORDEAL Friday, May 6, 10PM (9PM Manitoba/Sask.)
EXECUTION BY FIRE Friday, May 13, 10PM (9PM Manitoba/Sask.)
In a pair of hour-long documentaries, one of Canada’s top investigative journalists takes viewers into the harrowing stories of two wrongly convicted parents charged with murdering their children. Julian Sher’s films look at two cases where investigative negligence and a public hungry for justice have lead to terrible suffering and injustice. A Mother’s Ordeal and Execution by Fire are the culmination of the lauded REVEALED series made for Global Television by 90th Parallel Productions that incisively explores topical and controversial issues. Former Global National anchor Kevin Newman co-produced, co-wrote, and narrated both films.
A MOTHER’S ORDEAL (May 6) When Brenda Waudby of Peterborough, Ontario was suspected of the 1997 beating death of her 21 month-old daughter Jenna, it seemed like a closed case. A former drug addict on welfare, Waudby was an easy target. Relying on faulty autopsy analysis provided by child forensic pathologist Dr Charles Smith, police arrested her on murder charges. Waudby’s life was shattered and her surviving children were taken away. It took eight years before Waudby was found innocent and the horrifying truth about Jenna’s death came to light. Dr Smith, whose incompetence led to countless wrongful convictions, has subsequently had his medical license revoked.
EXECUTION UNDER FIRE (May 13) In 1991 three little girls died in a fire that gutted their home in a small Texas town. Sympathy turned to rage when their father was charged with murder by arson. After a thirteen-year battle to prove his innocence and despite new evidence casting doubt over the conviction, Todd Willingham was executed by lethal injection in 2004. Since Willingham’s death, leading fire scientists have challenged the underpinnings of the case, concluding it was an accidental fire. Today, Willingham’s family is still battling to clear his name and for the first time Texas may be forced to admit to executing an innocent man.
Throughout his career director Julian Sher, now a writer for the Globe and Mail has tackled many difficult, hard-hitting subjects. He has dealt with child prostitution, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, biker gangs, and his book “Until You Are Dead,” helped lead to the acquittal of Steven Truscott, one of Canada’s most famous cases of wrongful conviction. “What can be more crushing than the nightmare of losing your child,” asks Sher. “And then the nightmare gets unimaginably worse when the police accuse you of the murder and you know you’re innocent? These were compelling human dramas and trials that grabbed the headlines. We tried to look at the toll these cases took not only on the accused but also on their families—their loved ones, the other children. It’s also about how communities turn against the guilty suspect in our midst – how we are all guilty of jumping to conclusions.”
Executive Producer Gordon Henderson believes these two documentaries are an appropriate and powerful conclusion to the REVEALED series. “Kevin Newman and I wanted to take a fresh look at a whole range of controversial issues,” Henderson says.
“Our aim was to delve a bit deeper into subjects that often just get a cursory glance.
We have covered everything from the rise of Christian evangelism in Canada to animal rights in this country. We were very fortunate to get Julian on board for these two final films. They’re certainly the most unsettling and I know viewers will not be able to easily forget Brenda Waudby and Todd Willingham.”
A Mother’s Ordeal and Execution by Fire are directed by Julian Sher. They are written by Kevin Newman and Julian Sher and produced by Bob Culbert and Kevin Newman. The executive producer is Gordon Henderson of 90th Parallel Productions. Both documentaries were produced by 90th Parallel Productions in association with Global Television.
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