Having delved into the deep end of the prison system, interviewing a man awaiting execution and the family members of his victims in his outstanding 2011 doc “Into The Abyss.” Werner Herzog is set to continue the conversation about the death penalty and those to whom it’s been given in “On Death Row,” a four-part companion series to last year’s film that premieres on the Investigation Discovery channel on March 9th at 10pm.
In an unfortunate instance of timeliness, one of the five inmates he interviews in the series has just been executed. George Rivas, 41, was the leader of the Texas 7, a gang that escaped from a maximum-security prison and went on a crime spree that left one policeman dead, ultimately getting caught after someone spotted them on “America’s Most Wanted.” He was serving multiple life sentences for kidnapping, robbery and burglary charges at the time of the breakout. In the clip from “On Death Row” below, he tells Herzog “I had more time than all mass murderers in the prison system that I know of. They took away all hope for me. When you do that to a person, anything is possible.”
Rivas died by lethal injection on Wednesday. According to the AP, he offered a statement to the family of Aubrey Hawkins, the slain officer: “I do apologize for everything that happened. Not because I’m here, but for closure in your hearts. I really do believe you deserve that.”
The episode featuring Rivas and fellow gang member Joseph Garcia is scheduled to air March 23. Herzog doesn’t support the death penalty, but during “Into The Abyss” demonstrated his ability to highlight its ugliness and find empathy for those awaiting execution while never softening his portrayal of the crimes committed, telling Michael Perry “I don’t have to like you, but you are a human being.”
Speaking at TCA in January, Herzog described James Barnes, the subject of the first installment of “On Death Row,” as “in my opinion is the ultimate nightmare for women… A man with the intention to murder you, and rape you, hides himself stark naked in your closet, and watches you for hours and hours, how you are doing your dinner, how you are watching a soap opera, how you take a shower, and keeps watching, watching, watching. And then comes out and murders you.”
[H/t to Hitfix]