Life and Death Row: BBC Three

How can you say sorry for murder? The second season of BBC Three’s Life and Death Row asks the important questions surrounding the use of the death penalty without providing any answers.

‘Execution’, the first episode of the new season of the controversial yet popular series, follows a young murderer in the lead up to his execution. With access to the man himself, his family, the victim’s wife, lawyers, and even the judge at his trial, a rounded picture is built up of the ways in which the death penalty affects those involved at its critical moment: the actual execution.

The young man at the centre of this episode is Daniel Lopez, who is accused of murdering a police officer in a car chase. He displays incredibly unusual characteristics; he laughs in the courtroom, refuses appeals to block his execution, and even actively attempts to be given the death penalty instead of a life sentence.

Yet, despite this behaviour, he is deemed appropriate for the death penalty in his psychological evaluation. The use of such an unusual subject shows the producers’ commitment to avoid cliché and present real life, giving the programme a very ‘fly on the wall’ feel.

This feeling is helped by the multi-faceted approach of the production team. It genuinely feels like the views of all the involved parties are presented equally with an unbiased approach. The opinion of the production team is not at any point evident, no viewpoint is given more screen time or emphasis. It is evident that this programme has not been created to argue for or against the subject matter, but to give people an insight into the process and the way that it affects different people.

This lack of bias allows the viewer to form their own opinions. It poses questions and encourages us to come up with our own answers based on what we have seen.

The mature and understated treatment of such a contentious issue not only encourages an active viewership, but also emphasises the inherently human nature of the issue. By focusing on individuals, the treatment of the death penalty debate is taken out of the abstract and inspires a more sensitive consideration of matters that affect human lives so deeply.

Image: J. Chan

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