Netflix's popular true crime docuseries I Am A Killer is leaving viewers wondering: is it possible to sympathise with a murderer?
Watch the trailer for I Am A Killer here.
As a huge crime fan, I have scouted the ins and outs of Netflix’s vast array of serial killer and murder documentaries, and I find them all to be pretty exhilarating. I’m sure most crime fans out there would agree that it is rarely easy to be on the side of the killer. More often than not, of course, I find their crimes to be hideous, but I Am A Killer has me in a conflicted mindset.
I Am A Killer came to Netflix at the start of the year and has been on the Top 10 list for a couple of weeks now - proving to be a fan favourite. The documentary has run for two seasons, and in each, follows the lives of ten criminals on death row. You, as the viewer, are invited into their world through first-hand accounts of their crimes, and other accounts from detectives and lawyers. What heightens the emotion, however, is the interviews from those directly affected, be it surviving victims themselves or bereaved family members.
Now, don’t get me wrong, many of the murderers are callous and unforgivable, such as one inmate named Lindsay Haugen, whom in 2015 strangled her partner to death but made it out to seem as if he wanted her to do it. The footage from the police interview starts off with her upset and in remorse for what happened, but still pleading innocent. As the interview continues, she reveals, “I just kinda wanted to feel like what it would be like to kill someone.” The confession contradicts the sweet, remorseful woman we are introduced to at the beginning of the episode. What makes this even worse is the fact that the victim’s mother and stepfather had forgiven Haughen, and would regularly visit her in prison, greeting her with hugs and smiles. Crazy, right?
However, another episode left me feeling more conflicted and on the brink of sympathising with one of the killers. The episode follows the life of a man called David Barnett, who murdered his adoptive grandparents in 1996. Now, I know what you’re thinking: how could you sympathise with a murderer who killed two innocent elderly people? Well, of course, what he did was indescribable, but throughout the episode we are taught about his horrific upbringing, and this, paired with his intense emotions and anguish, left me sympathising with him. Barnett was sexually and physically assaulted throughout his childhood and when his grandparents refused to believe his story, he just snapped.
This was a case where I felt myself torn. I understood why he blew up, and although the situation turned out terribly, I would never be able to understand how severely the experiences he suffered would harm him, and I think many viewers would feel the same. Give it a watch for yourself. It is an incredibly interesting programme, and its filming and dramatizations makes it a series you won’t want to turn off.