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Murder on a Sunday Morning

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ann Finnell, Patrick McGuinness, James Williams, Michael Glover, Dwayne Darnell
  • Directors: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
  • Producers: Christine Le Goff, Denis Poncet, Yves Jeanneau
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: April 29, 2003
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008DDJ4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,713 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Murder on a Sunday Morning" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Cast interviews
  • Deleted scenes
  • Original police confession
  • Filmmaker biography

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Beating out some of the most poignant and powerful films of the last decade this gripping edge-of-your-seat whodunit catapulted to the top of "must see" lists everywhere when it emerged to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. A mesmerizing thrill ride MURDER ON A SUNDAY MORNING is invigorating and heart-wrenching at the same time--the stuff suspense novelists only dream of writing. Jacksonville Florida May 2000. Mary Ann Stephens is shot in the head at point blank range in front of her husband. Two hours later Brenton Butler a 15 year old black male is arrested walking down a nearby street. Mr. Stephens identifies him. Butler signs a confession. Everyone involved with the case from investigators to journalists is ready to condemn Butler except his lawyer Patrick McGuiness. A dazzling and magnetic presence of Hollywood proportions McGuiness reopens the inquiry and in a dramatic and absolutely spine-tingling sequence of events he and his team discover a slew of shocking and troubling elements about the case. Did Brenton write his own confession? Where is the concrete evidence? And most importantly can the police be lying? DVD Features: Cast Interviews; Deleted Scenes; Original Police Confession; Filmmaker Biography; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection


The Academy Award-winning documentary Murder on a Sunday Afternoon, which originally aired on HBO as part of its America Undercover series, is a troubling look at modern police investigation that unfolds in a story as compelling and suspenseful as any fictional drama. French director Jean-Xavier De Lestrade's intimate camerawork pulls viewers into the jury box to help decide the fate of 15-year-old Brenton Butler, a black resident of Jacksonville, Florida, who becomes the prime suspect in the shooting death of an elderly white woman simply because he was seen in the vicinity of the crime. Butler's attorney, a magnetic public defender named Patrick McGuinness, must pit his legal skills against a mountain of shoddy investigative work and corruption to save his client from life in prison. Similar in intent to HBO's Paradise Lost, Murder's white-knuckled pacing and a wealth of courtroom fireworks should leave true-crime and documentary fans breathless--and angry. --Paul Gaita

Customer Reviews

Very well done and very captivating.
Rosemary Abercrombie
It is important for us to realize that the justice system operates under political ambitions and that only us, the jury, can ensure the courts keep their integrity.
Many of the people in this film will stay in your mind for a long time.
Kate McDonald

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A. L. Straayer on July 12, 2004
Format: DVD
I live in Illinois, a state that a couple of years back put a moratorium on capital punishment because too many people on death row were found to be not guilty thanks to DNA evidence or whose trials proved to have had very many serious flaws. You would not
believe - or, if this movie appeals to you, you probably would believe - how vitriolic the letters to the editor got in my very conservative hometown paper. The bottom line was virtually always " he was proven guilty in a court of law" blah blah blah. Nothing was said about actual guilt or innocence. Nothing was said about the very real fact that out of all the people involved in capturing, investigating, defending, prosecuting, and judging a person's crime there might be a mistake or two, a deliberate lie or two, a bad apple or two, someone with their own particular agenda
that could be detrimental to discovering the truth. No. A horrendous crime has taken place. Someone has to pay. If that someone happens to be guilty so much the better but it is not an absolute requirement. We all need closure. We all need revenge.
There are so many things that jurors should be made aware of ahead of time before judging a case. From this documentary it would be 1) not all police are honest; 2) some police are ruthless; 3) not all signed confessions are the truth (forced extractions are just one of several reasons why); 4) not all murder investigations are thorough; 5) and eye-witness accounts and identifications are not always accurate.
At the end of the trial when the lawyer for the prosecution was summing up, she said (and I paraphrase) "We have an eye-witness that says this young man did it. That is the only proof you need of his guilt.
Read more ›
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was a little put off when i first started watching this documentary by the seeming low-budget quality. It was filmed for HBO and looks like it was shot on video. The movie is basically a document of a court case and takes you slowly through the process: the evidence, the crime, the witness, the accused, etc. It doesn't stray too far away from the courtroom.
However, what you witness - a young black man being tried for a crime he may not have committed (the murder of a white woman) unearths some institutional racism of the highest order. The astonishing thing is how clear the film makes it. The fact that all of this happened just a few years ago (and not in the 1950s somehwere in the deep south)is very, very troubling.
I cannot, in fact, think of another movie about botched police work that is quite so frightening. If you watch this movie all the way through till the end, I promise you, the last five minutes will make your jaw drop to the floor.
Very heartbreaking.
An excellent, illuminating film.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By dogny on May 11, 2005
Format: DVD
For the bulk of the movie, you see the flaws in our judicial system. The cops. the pressures. But, the verdict demonstrates that there is justice . . . sometimes. The heros are the two public defenders. Smart, tough and ready to rumble . . . they never flinch or take the easy way out, but fight for the obvious truth in this case. It exposes the flaws in eye-witness testimony. Under the stress of having a gun thrust in your face, of your wife being killed, is such observation reliable? Finally, the detectives come off as low-life scum . . . giving a bad name to all honest cops. I doubt that a million dollar dream team of lawyers could have done a better job than the two public defenders. How can we have a death penalty? Dirty cops, eye-witness testimony, a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Doesn't take much does it?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By W. C. Head on November 23, 2008
Format: DVD
Murder on a Sunday Morning

Clearly, the best documentary movie I have ever seen. As a criminal defense attorney for over 33 years, this movie brings home the message about the damage done by cops who lie to hastily prosecute a controversial and publicity-driven case. The quick accusation of this young man was convenient, but very little true investigation went into the arrest and indictment. Corrupt police officers are far more damaging to the Constitution than any single criminal in America, regardless of his or her crimes.

William C. Head
Attorney at Law
Atlanta, GA

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Savarese on August 12, 2008
Format: DVD
This is truly a portrait of American justice at its worst......and best, as shown through the story of a young black kid; wrongly identified by an eyewitness standing less than a foot away from the crime; mistreated, abused and ultimately railroaded by the police; foolishly and ineptly prosecuted by the state; defended by two public defenders who are true American heroes and judged by a jury that thankfully saw through the scam.

It's also the story of a tragedy that visited a wonderful American family.

The icing on the cake for this story is the fact that the jury's decision ultimately proved to be correct, beyond any and all doubt, so there are not even any loose ends to this story; what you see is what you get.

It's one of the most compelling documentaries I have ever seen, not only for it's content, but also because it was perfectly filmed and edited too.

Personally, I was so moved by this drama that I did something I've never done before or since. I picked up my phone and called the Jacksonville Public Defender's and was fortunate enough to speak with Patrick McGuiness to thank him for what he and his colleague, Ann Finnell, did, not only for their client, Brenton Butler and his family, but really for what they did for American justice.
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