Confessions: Why the Sickest TV Show in America Must Never Be Allowed in Britain

Article excerpt

A GRINNING Daniel Rakowitz looks straight at the camera and describes how, after punching her in the throat, he killed his girlfriend and began hacking her body to pieces.

This is the spectacle viewers in America will tune into when a disturbing new TV show called Confessions gets its first airing next month.

The programme takes the viewer into the interrogation rooms of police stations via official video tapes designed to be used in court - not for entertainment.

But US freedom of speech laws mean the tapes are deemed public property - and in the relentless search for ratings, they are now to be aired on prime-time TV.

It is billed breathlessly as educational and informative, a "raw look into the complex minds of some the most disturbing criminals of our time".

Anyone can see that is balderdash - this sort of show is about one thing: attracting viewers, and, therefore, advertising, hence the concentration on the most lurid cases possible.

If Confessions proves as popular as commentators expect it to be, it will not be long before someone tries the same thing on this side of the Atlantic.

And anyone who welcomes that would do well to examine the output planned for the first episode, starting with the confession on Rakowitz, who was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

Yet still viewers will see this clearly-disturbed man talking in shocking detail about his crime. That might be permitted under US law - but it is ethically unacceptable.

He says on camera: "I punched her one time and hit her in the throat and she fell to the ground and started to gurgle.

I FELT her heart beat and she had one and her eyes were open and I figured maybe she was holding her breath.

"I went to make a pot delivery in the park and I came back and she was still lying there so I touched her and she was cold and I realised she was dead."

Worse still is the case of David Garcia, a gay male prostitute, who stabbed to death a one-legged man who was confined to a wheelchair after he tried to attack him with a knife.

Highlighting a case like that for no reason other than its awfulness shows this project to be a freak show, whose purpose is to fascinate, not inform.

If that's not enough, next we see defendant Steven Smith, who was found guilty of the rape and murder of a woman doctor in New York's Bellevue Hospital.

"My motive was money," he tells the camera, blaming the crime on an accomplice who turns out later at court to be "completely imaginary".

My thoughts here are with the families and friends of the victims in these cases, whose feelings clearly count for nothing.

Court TV's executive vice president Art Bell recently admitted: "There will be pain for the relatives and friends of people involved...and that is something we at Court TV have much sympathy for. But my feeling is that society continues to examine the crimes of the past to try and reason and learn from what has gone on before. …