It’s everyone’s worst nightmare, being accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Thankfully, most of us will never experience the fate of Juan Catalan. Long Shot is a gem of a documentary that examines the case with a dedicated lawyer and a random twist of fate. Both would ultimately exonerate Juan Catalan.
Director Jacob LaMendola takes a standard talking-head approach to this incredible true story. This story is so fascinating that it doesn’t need fancy cinematography to keep you engaged. This is not a long drawn out doc-series like Making of a Murder. With a running time of just 40 minutes, it is brief enough to keep even the most casual viewer hooked.
The crime itself was vicious, yet uncomplicated. Martha Puebla was gunned down on the doorstep of her home in Sun Valley, California in 2004. A witness provided police with a description of the shooter. Detectives working the case claimed it matched Juan Catalan. Armed with no more than a witness description and a convoluted motive, the police set out to get their man.
The case hinges on Juan proving his attendance at a baseball game. Despite his family and girlfriend corroborating his story, the police will not accept his version of events. He will need to find an independent witness to place him in the stadium. His attorney, Todd Melkin, comes up with the inspired idea of combing CCTV footage and the ESPN sports broadcast to find Juan in the stadium.
It’s a long shot, but it could save Juan’s life. After days of pouring over videotapes, his attorney spots Juan in the crowd of 56,000. Unfortunately, the footage is too grainy to positively identify his client. When all seems lost, salvation comes from an unexpected source.
Long Shot is a life-affirming, feel-good documentary. However, it raises serious questions about the integrity of the LAPD and state prosecutors. If not for a random twist of fate, Juan Catalan would now be sitting on death row awaiting execution. This is an amazing story which will leave you questioning the criminal justice system.