The evidence, from the article:
I'll consider the knife and the alibi as separate pieces of evidence, but I'm going to discuss 1, 2, and 3 together under the heading of witness testimony.
Witness testimony is fairly shitty as far as evidence goes. The movie avoids stating this outright, though it does pick apart the various accounts. The reliability of each witness is found wanting. The blogger suggests that while each witness may be unreliable by him/herself, there must be some truth in their combined testimony.
The human brain is bad at intuitively understanding probability. In truth, there is no reason to expect that multiple accounts formed in similarly poor conditions wouldn't produce similarly poor results. This event occurred late at night, while people were closed away in their quarters, as an L-train was passing by. Those are not good conditions to be certain of anything you've seen or heard.
For another thing, multiple accounts may start out contradictory, but with a little hindsight, memories patch their own holes. They incorporate details that weren't in the original version and smooth over the inconsistencies. This is not deliberate; the human brain has a way of tweaking its own recall to arrive at a stable model of its environment.
Not only do we see what we "want" to see (our brains unconsciously reconfigure contradictory/incomplete details so that they gel), but we remember what we "want" to remember.
Consider the witness who “heard” the kid "loudly arguing with his father, at one point shouting words to the effect of, 'I’m gonna kill you!'" Perhaps the witness heard somebody
shout something to that effect. How the witness could have known that it was the kid is another matter.
It is most likely a noisy neighborhood, in which sound is heard unidirectionally through an open window. Also, people's voices are much less distinguishable when they're shouting. It's doubtful this witness "knew" at the time that it was the kid's voice. Yet, once the kid was charged with murder, the witness retroactively “remembered” that the shouting must have been him.
If more than one person independently reported the same event the same way prior to knowing other witnesses' accounts, it would be more reliable. Independent confirmation is crucial when dealing with individual reports. As it stands, there is no proof of the kid's shouting except for a single witness who linked two different events in hindsight.
It isn't that the witness testimony is inherently
dubious, but the jurors are well within their right to treat it as such based on the circumstances.
The blogger is wrong for assuming that multiple witnesses must
be right, whether in whole or in part. Untrustworthy parts merely add up to an untrustworthy whole.NOTE:
One thing I want to emphasize is that nobody in the film accuses the witnesses of lying or otherwise deliberately straying from the truth.
For example, maybe the old man exaggerated his own recall of the events for attention. This doesn't mean he did it knowingly or on purpose.
These things have a way of happening on their own, especially if the need is there. Furthermore, the need for attention was speculated,
but the dubiousness of his claim is what's truly important.
This brings us to the next discrete piece of evidence: the kid's alibi.
Something that the blogger overlooks, but would be obvious to 1950s viewers: going to the movies in the 1950s was a very different experience from going to the movies today.
Nowadays, a movie is a planned evening out. You anticipate it, check the showtime, and go in with prior knowledge of whatever it is you're going to see.
In the 1950s, not so much. You went to the movies whenever and sat down in the middle of whatever. It's like the modern television experience: you turn on the TV and start watching in the middle of a program. This doesn't mean you learn the names of the show or the people on it, and if you do, it doesn't mean you'd remember them later.
People also went to the movies a lot more in the 1950s, given the limited options of home viewing. Lots of cookie-cutter "B" movies were pumped out and piggybacked onto more prominent features. This lent further to the sameness of theatrical viewings back then.
This cannot be compared to the modern experience of going to see Magic Mike--a very distinctive movie, most likely sought out by people with an active interest in movies and/or scantily clad men. It's not something that the studios shat out on a weekend that you happened to be at the movies to see whatever.
The alibi doesn't require that he name the movies or the actors. Emotional stress is plenty explanatory for why he forgot them, and that's counting the uncertain assumption that he might have remembered them otherwise.
Human memory is not perfect. It is selective, impressionable, and ultimately unreliable as an accurate record of facts.
Maybe the lack of movie names in his alibi would make for more compelling evidence if it weren't such a weighty case, but as evidence for a murder, it's lacking.
And that brings us to the knife.
1. That a crime might occur for reasons unknown is entirely probable. A random crime is also possible, though improbable. As long as the focus is placed upon a single suspect, nobody would speculate as to the motives of other potential suspects, so of course the reasons would be unknown.
2. In terms of physical evidence, nobody--neither the kid nor anybody else--left a trace behind, save for the knife. It is established in the movie that the prosecution incorrectly
claimed that the knife was unique.
While it is not far-fetched that the killer would use the same kind of knife that the kid owned (remember, it was sold in the neighborhood where the murder occurred), it is pretty far-fetched that the kid would lose his knife on the same night. That must be conceded.
However, it is
common to lose small objects through a hole in your pocket. It is
common for tough guys to buy switch knives in a rough neighborhood. It is
common for two people in the same neighborhood to own the same thing when multiple copies of that thing are available for sale in that neighborhood. The odds are not as slim as the blogger seems to believe.
The real coincidence is that he would lose his knife and his father would get killed with a knife of the same model.
The unlikelihood increases with the kid's claim that he lost it within a short time of the murder. However, I am going to put on my Juror #8 hat and call the accuracy of that claim into question.
What can be inferred is that he noticed
it missing that evening. After all, he had a very good reason to check to see if it was there.
Losing an object through a hole in your pocket is something that happens beneath your notice. If you notice it when it happens, the object wouldn't be lost, because you pick it back up.
Unless he constantly checks his pocket to see if his knife is there (maybe he's neurotic), it could have fallen out anytime
since he put on those pants. This extends the timescale of the loss of the knife, thus increasing the probability.
Like I said, it is a big coincidence that the killer would use the same kind of knife that the kid lost, but that is as far as the improbability goes. This unlikely coincidence, in my view, is the only substantive evidence against the kid.
I do not think that this is enough evidence to execute a man. The kid owned a knife, not an uncommon model in his neighborhood. He claimed he lost it after an unknown person killed his father using the same kind of knife. This is obviously suspicious, but a murder conviction requires certainty.