Another demeaning case of how justice is lost when religion interferes with the law.
The series appeared on Disney+ not long ago web of death, which is about how citizens sometimes help with a good outcome in a criminal case. One of the episodes revolves around a man who was very easily convicted of something he didn’t do, after which it took a lot of effort to get him out of prison again. The verdict was entered in Smith County, Texas. How to create a sex scandal this is a case heard there as well, making it clear that Smith County’s legal system needs an overhaul.
Margie and John Cantrell were two people who cared for many children in care. When they moved to Texas it continued; they housed two sisters and a brother who had just been separated from their family. But according to Margie, one of the boys started talking about sexual abuse, which Margie reported to the police. This three-part documentary series is about that report and its dire consequences.
How to create a sex scandal is produced by journalist Michael Hall who also talks about himself, so the story is presented in his opinion about it. Anyway, that man has more than the court had: evidence. The people involved also have an opinion of him, so it gives the impression that it is an honest image.
It is not that there is no manipulation. The story has been cleverly edited to build neatly into three episodes and the photos are shown at just the right moments that will evoke the same feeling for everyone. As a documentary this is all pretty standard, but the subject matter certainly isn’t and that makes for an addictive viewing experience.
A well-known joke: how do you know someone is vegan? He will tell you right away. In itself a good joke, because it was the truth for a long time. Until a few years ago, vegans could make themselves known because they were the ones who proclaimed their lifestyle. The same observation is often applied to people of faith; as soon as they come forward and claim they are religious and follow the rules, there is a good chance they are in trouble.
At least Margie, who gives herself this presentation. America is already known as a country with unhealthy high Christian standards and Texas is one of the worst states within that, Smith County being the outlier. That’s not where the matter was first raised, by the way. The district where Margie lived investigated the allegation and concluded that there was no case. She then knocked on the neighbor’s door, which doesn’t take much to put someone in jail.
What really seems to play is so bad that there are no words for it. That someone can have it in them to treat others like this. Seeing so little value in another’s life, robbing another of a normal life. Not to mention what happened behind closed doors within the family.
Each side can tell their story, but the creators shamelessly push the viewer who they think is right. He’s almost certainly right, but he could have been a bit less convincing. After all, it is not difficult to determine who turns out to be unreliable. There’s only one person whose obvious crocodile tears at just the right moments.
It is incomprehensible that no action is taken in Smith County given its judicial focus. Innocent people have regularly been proven to languish behind bars there, that can’t go unpunished, can it? Smith County is an irrefutable argument for why faith has no place in court.
The ending isn’t entirely satisfying, but that’s how it should feel because the victims didn’t get it either. Whether this documentary will bring about a big change remains to be seen, but at least the rest of the world now has knowledge of this case and an idea of who the culprits are.
How to create a sex scandal can be seen in hbo max.