Wrongful convictions, missing persons, unsolved murders — the true crime genre has never been more popular, yet the vast majority of recent documentaries, podcasts and TV shows have been about unraveling some sort of mystery. Are Adnan Syed, Scott Peterson, Darlie Routier, Steven Avery and Michael Peterson actually innocent of the murders for which they were convicted? Was a serial killer Ed Edwards also responsible for the Zodiac killings, and the deaths of Jon Benet Ramsey, Laci Peterson, Jimmy Hoffa and dozens of others? Was the murder of Sister Cathy covered up by the Catholic Church in Baltimore in order to hide a massive child molestation scandal? How could Maura Murray or Natalee Holloway have just vanished without a trace?
I Am a Killer, Netflix’s new 10-episode docuseries (released Friday), provokes none of these questions. Produced in collaboration with A+E Networks U.K. and Sky Vision Productions, each hour-long installment features a man convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death row talking candidly about the crimes they don’t deny committing, as they await execution. While the series lacks gender diversity — there are currently 51 women on death row – each case is fascinating and horrifying in its own unique way.
There’s Miguel Martinez, the youngest person to ever be sentenced to death row in Texas, at just age 17, for a 1991 triple murder at the height of the Satanic Panic; Wayne Doty, who is seeking to be executed by the electric chair on death row in Florida, where the method is no longer used; Deandra Buchanan, who does not dispute that the evidence shows he killed his aunt, step-father and girlfriend in 2000, but says he doesn’t remember it; and James Robertson, who would have been released parole in the 1980s, but his violent behavior behind bars added years to his sentence and resulted in over 20 years in solitary confinement, until he killed a fellow prisoner for the sole purpose of escaping to the “better conditions” on death row.
As death-row prisoners are often shielded from the media, the series offers an extremely rare, and deeply chilling, opportunity to better understand how and why someone would commit a crime as heinous as murder, from 10 men who’ve done it, and have had years of solitude behind bars to contemplate their actions and their own fates.