Seven Seconds is a Netflix original TV series written by a Canadian screenplay writer. It’s supposed to be about a black kid who is killed by a white cop in what is described as a hate crime. That’s not what this series is about. It’s about a band of corrupt cops who are paid off by the black dope ring that runs the city and how they cover up a hit and run. 2 out of 10 stars. The writer really should’ve done her research. She didn’t get the criminal justice system right at all.
On a winter morning a young white uneducated Jersey City police officer named Petey Jablonski gets a phone call from his wife Marie’s cousin (Teresa) that Marie has gone into labor. He’s talking on the phone and not paying attention to his driving. He’s going 60 mph. He hits something and gets out of the car after skidding to a stop. There’s a kid’s bicycle under his wheel, so he calls his cop friends and three of them come–DiAngelo, Osorio, and Wilcox. This particular group of cops is mixed race–some Italian, some Hispanic and their wives and girlfriends are also a combination of Italian and Hispanic. So characterizing them as “white cops” is not very accurate. If you’ve seen the idiots on Jersey Shore, that’s pretty much the education level of these guys.
The other thing about these cops is that the four of them take payoffs from the dominant drug ring in town who are all black. They’re friends with them. They share information, joke about their girlfriends and wives, etc. So they aren’t racist either. Yes, they call each other nasty names in the same way that gang members call each other nigga and other slang. If they were supposed to be portrayed as racist that really didn’t come across at all. Also, the wives and girlfriends of these cops know that they are taking money from the drug ring. They go shopping with it and that’s why they picked these guys in the first place. The cops and their wives may not be racist but they are still despicable.
DiAngelo quickly takes over the scene. They climb over the ditch and find the boy Petey hit, a 16 year old black boy, Brenton Butler, in the park. He was thrown that far because of the speed Petey was driving. Brenton’s bleeding profusely and the snow around him is already drenched in blood, so they all assume he’ll bleed out before anyone finds him. The grill of Petey’s blue Ford Explorer is covered in Brenton’s blood, so DiAngelo, Osorio, and Wilcox throw the bicycle in the park near Brenton’s body and remove the grill to dispose of it. Then Petey goes home to change cars before rushing to the hospital to see his wife deliver their baby. Later, Teresa borrows that car to visit Marie in the hospital so it gets on video surveillance. Wilcox ends up keeping the grill just in case he needs it as leverage over Petey.
Because they threw the bike in the park, no one notices the blood stain on the road. Brenton isn’t found for 12 agonizing hours, but he’s still alive. He’s taken to the hospital and his parents are notified in one of the worst hospital scenes ever which was also not accurate. Brenton never wakes up because of the massive blood loss and head injury. He does respond to people touching him. Petey, while at the hospital with his wife and newborn son, comes to Brenton’s room and leaves the paper mache seagull that he found next to the bike on Brenton’s bed. Brenton’s mother Latrice sees this and hunts Petey down, assuming that he knows something.
The Assistant District Attorney put in charge of the case is a black female, KJ Harper, who is inexperienced and frankly a terrible attorney. She’s also an alcoholic with serious anger issues. She botches the case from the beginning, making one mistake after another in a very long row of mistakes. It was painful to watch. Her boss and former lover is a typical white male thirsty for political power and wants the vote from the policeman’s union in the next election so you can guess what little resources he gives her to find the driver. What she does get though is a really good cop with great instincts, Joe “Fish” Rinaldi. Fish is one of those rare birds on the police force, a cop who doesn’t take drug money. So he finds a witness, a 15 year old teenage girl named Nadine, who saw three cops in the park with the bicycle. She identifies them as DiAngelo, Osorio, and Wilcox.
By now they’ve disposed of the car, but not the grill. Wilcox is clinging to that and hides it Petey’s pool which is covered for the winter. Wilcox mentions this on the phone and his girlfriend Teresa (Marie’s cousin) overhears it. She goes to Fish and tells him. So now the prosecution has two witnesses–Nadine and Teresa. KJ tells her boss Donnelly and he tells DiAngelo, Osorio, and Wilcox. They kill Nadine and they intimidate Teresa. By the time the case gets to court and is tried, KJ has made so many mistakes that Petey gets 365 days in prison reduced to 30 days plus parole. Teresa finally tells the truth and where to find the grill. That’s the only reason that Petey got any time at all. The other three totally get off. :0
So let’s talk about the many things this Canadian writer (with Indian parents) got wrong. In the United States there is such a thing as depraved indifference. That means if you find a person dying and don’t help them get to a hospital, you can be charged with a crime and go to jail. However, most states have the felony murder rule. That is, if you commit a crime and in the commission of that crime cause another person to die you are guilty of first degree murder, a capitol crime. What Petey committed was a capitol crime and his friends would’ve been accessories. In this series, when they finally do get Petey to court he is charged with “death by auto”, a term I’ve never even heard of. It doesn’t rank as high as manslaughter and Pete gets out on parole in 30 days. Days, not years. The three cops who covered up the evidence aren’t even tried. That’s not any court system I know of.
Then there’s sentencing. In this country you first find the defendant guilty or not guilty of a list of charges. Sentencing is held in a different hearing and both sides present their case a second time with specific regard to sentencing. That was completely omitted from this.
Although the writer wasted hours on minutia involving everyone’s families and KJ’s drunken bouts, there isn’t a single scene devoted to jury selection which is really why this cop got off with 30 days and parole. The judge was a white male and the jury were mostly white middle class people. In reality this would’ve been mostly blue collar workers who were black, Hispanic, and Italian. That’s not who I saw in the jury or the court audience. The reason a white male judge and white middle class citizens would let a cop get off with such a light sentence is because it was a hit and run. Every single one of them could envision themselves accidentally hitting a kid on a bicycle on the way to work in the morning. It wasn’t a race thing. It’s a life thing for the middle class. It’s the blue collar lower class who care more. They ride their bikes and take the bus; in other words, they’re the ones more likely to get hit by those middle class SUVs.
Aside from the glaring errors in the way the series portrays the American judicial system, there are other things that were inaccurate like Nadine being held by the cops in witness protection. Not when the suspects are cops. Duh. Or the incredibly poor way the DA handled the evidence. The crime scene guys took the time to take photos and samples and bag all the evidence. But when they realize the color and make of the vehicle they don’t issue search warrants for these four cops’ residences?? By then they knew who did it. Nadine and Teresa had already told them. Yet they have weeks to get rid of the vehicle. The cops and DA don’t even go looking for the grill. If you can get an indictment for a murder case, you can get a search warrant. That’s a given.
If you want to spend 10 long arduous hours hearing about the lives of people you don’t really care about only to see a grave miscarriage of justice and a lot of apathetic middle class people who don’t care, then by all means watch this series. Otherwise, find something better to watch. When the wife told the police she didn’t recognize the man in her son’s room and got a gun to kill him, she had the right idea. But that’s not where this film went. It wasn’t really about racism. It was about apathy to the plight of others.
NBC has the series Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. That case really was a travesty of justice because the white male judge was racist, sexist, a religious bigot, and hated rich people. Those kids never had a chance.
Reviewed by Devin.