Editor’s note: The 2017 documentary has been written about by many, but if you haven’t seen it, there are spoilers in this column.
The documentary ‘Long Shot’ on Netflix is riveting. The production is extremely well-directed and holds your attention from the first words uttered by the subject Juan Catalan. By the time the credits roll, it’s impossible to not be infuriated by justice temporarily gone horribly astray. The work, however, stops short of the full story. Catalan, an innocent man who came far too close to the death penalty, is the central subject, but his brother Mario’s story warranted more attention than it got.
I will use the first names of these brothers for clarity from this point on.
Juan was arrested in August, 2003 for the murder of a young woman named Martha Puebla. The documentary recounts how detectives legally lied to Juan about “evidence”, and it’s obvious the prosecutor, a media favorite for her record of convictions, definitely believed Juan was guilty.
What isn’t covered in the Netflix work in adequate detail is the role Juan’s brother Mario played. Mario was a member of the Vineland Boyz street gang. I still can’t fathom how a brother who must have known the truth didn’t speak up as he watched his own brother being prosecuted for a crime he didn’t do. Juan wasn’t a gang member. For Mario the ties to the gang were stronger than ties to his family.
In tandem with the attempted prosecution of Juan who was definitely an innocent man is the story of the prosecutor, Beth Silverman. She is a perfect example of why we should never worship a government employee as we do a deity. Silverman, to my knowledge, has never apologized for attempting to send an innocent man to Death Row. In my opinion, she never should’ve taken the case to trial. The detectives have been roundly criticized, but she should not be spared criticism for her role in this tragi-comedy of errors.
In the end, because of a baseball game (Dodgers), a child, the HBO show ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, and a very dedicated defense attorney, Juan Catalan was exonerated. Juan’s painful experience with the criminal justice system is enough to make us question our justice system completely on the prosecutorial level. That Ms. Silverman is still viewed as a hero should make media question their conscience, but you can’t question what you don’t have I suppose.
I highly recommend the Netflix documentary ‘Long Shot’. From the script writers to the producers, the work is most well done. Even if you know the outcome, the storytelling is so superior you stay engaged with the subject and his story. I just wish it’d been long enough to cover some of the backstories, including the damage street gangs do in many neighborhoods across our country today.
(Kay B. Day/Feb. 23, 2021)