I Am A Killer is a documentary on Netflix that profiles ten convicted murders currently sitting on death row in the US. Each episode focuses on one specific inmate, all of whom willing admit that they killed somebody. There are no innocent pleas here!
However, this is a series with a difference. It isn't just gratuitous details on murder for the sake of it. What I Am A Killer does very well is give a full 360° picture of the murder. The background of the killer is explored, how they were raised, how the events unfolded etc… Then there are additional interviews with lawyers and case prosecutors as well as family members of both the victim and the perpetrator.
So what you end with is a more comprehensive look at not just why somebody killed, but how they, as human beings, got to the point in life where it was their only option. It highlights serious flaws in the system where children slip through the cracks. And in almost every case, the inmates had awful childhoods. Most were born and raised by drug addicts or alcoholics. They were left to run wild and generally were unwanted and neglected.
Sadly, there is a certain inevitability in the way their lives turned out. And, oddly this does evoke a certain level of sympathy, in some cases. Case in point is James Robertson who was first arrested at 12-years-old. By the age of 17, he was sentenced to 10 years for burglary and aggravated assault.
But unable to follow any rules in prison he spent most of the time in fights. That led to more time getting added on to his sentence as well as years spent in solitary. In a desperate bid to get out of that part of the prison, he decided to murder his cellmate. Which he did. And all so he could demand death row. It was a means to an end.
Don't think that this is some sort of ‘poor me' documentary. I Am A Killer does an incredible job of balancing the stories. Your sympathy for some of the inmates is far outweighed by the stories of the victim's families. But it is fair and thought-provoking. Nothing is ever black and white and the circumstances of each case are compelling and engaging. But they are also dark and sad and you may need to find a good comedy to watch after it.