One chair. One voice. A cold empty room. Multiple poor decisions. Despair, DNA, and freedom. This is all the description you need about the documentary Fear of 13. It is the story of Nick Yarris, a convicted murderer and former death row inmate in the Pennsylvania penal system.
This is a different type of documentary. For most of this movie there are no other perspectives outside of Yarris’. Visuals are rare, which I found strange. Visuals are a major part of documentary storytelling. There is no narrator. Yarris talks. And talks. But not about why he’s in prison. You learn that towards the end of the film. Instead, he talks about his woes being behind bars or fellow prisoners. Hell, he even details his journey to learn to read.
It’s not until he explains his escape from prison that I lost complete interest in his story.
If you are not familiar with Nick Yarris, he was wrongfully convicted of murder at the age of 20 and spent 21 years on death row. How did he become involved in the murder case that he never committed? He inserted himself. It began with a routine traffic stop. Somehow it resulted in violence and he was charged with assaulting an officer. While in custody, Yarris decides to gain his freedom by accusing someone in the murder of a local young woman. Only he knew this acquaintance was innocent of the crime. Once the police found out that he gave false information he became the prime suspect and later convicted of the murder.
In addition, Yarris makes the decision, after being behind bars for some time, to escape from prison while he was on his way to appeals court and was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list. He turned himself in after 25 days, but not before committing crime after crime, including armed robbery. He fell into depression and petitioned the court to cancel his appeals and asked to be put to death. Later, DNA proved his innocence and he is freed.
This guy. To be honest, I cannot imagine how it would feel to be convicted of a crime I did not commit. I know that it’s a terrible injustice. My problem was that Yarris never connected the dots to his responsibility in his own conviction. There was never any expressed remorse.
So many men have died for less than the shenanigans he pulled.
I didn’t like this documentary. I didn’t like the directorial decisions and I was not a fan of Yarris. I would advise anyone considering watching The Fear of 13 to find something else more interesting to watch. Cat video, anyone?