Southern Rites is a 2015 documentary, which aired on HBO. The documentary attempts to focus on a potentially racial motivated murder. It focuses on the murder of Justin Patterson, a 22 year old African American, by a 62 year old, Norman Neesmith. The documentary ultimately fails to tell the story of the crime and instead focuses on the community, which is anything, but compelling. Right from the beginning, it is fairly obvious the film is slanted and wants to paint the town, as a bunch of illiterate white hicks.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, this isn’t the crime for the task. Why? Well, the shooter, Norman Neesmith, raised his African American relative like a daughter. Old Norman wakes up in the middle of the night and grabs his .22 caliber pistol. He discovers Justin Patterson and his brother, Sha’von, in his home. Although the pair were invited by Neesmith’s relative, he insists he had no clue. Unbeknownst to Neesmith, the brothers has been engaging in sex and smoking marijuana with his relative and a 14 year old friend.
Ultimately, it is revealed that a struggle occurred and Neesmith fired the deadly shots from the ground. After, Justin was shot, he brother ran out of the house and fled into the fields, where he frantically called his mother. Truthfully, we’ll never know the truth and this documentary doesn’t even try to unravel the mystery. The only potential thing the documentary does right is speak with Norman Neesmith himself. This gives us a little insight in his mentality. Although he might not be the most likable character in the world, it is likely he didn’t act out, due to racism.
Eventually, Norman Neesmith gets a slap on the wrist and nobody is happy. There is no doubt that the justice system is terribly flawed, but the erroneous nature of this case is questionable. Anyone can debate the racial injustices of the justice system, but statistics do not lie. The current U.S. Death Row Population consists of 41.67% African Americans and 42.77% Whites. Since 1976, the race of executed defendants are as follows, 34.7% African American and 55.5% White. Obviously, the justice system is flawed, but it is flawed against all and doesn’t care what race you are.
If you’re poor, your chances are dim. If you’re rich and can afford a powerful team of attorneys, your chances are much better. Individuals on both sides of the aisle need to come together to rectify these irregularities, but documentaries like Southern Rites just push people apart further. The American main stream media is also guilty of such behavior. To put an end to the rambling, Southern Rites isn’t much of a watch, because the information provided is scattered in too many directions, which makes it incoherent and drawn-out.
Ultimately, the Souther Rites documentary deserves a 5 out of 10.