While the number of murder series available on Netflix may seem mildly worrisome at first glance, such shows have captivated a range of audiences worldwide. I for one have also been a big proponent of crime/mystery/murder docuseries and docudramas, so I was immediately drawn in by Netflix's recent addition I AM A KILLER. Yes, it is in all caps.
The drama of an all-caps-title is rightfully given as it tells the stories of inmates on death row—both from the perspective of the inmate and others involved with their life and/or trial.
While many inmates interviewed attempt to dismiss the accusations afforded them with "It's a blur" or "You have to understand, it wasn't my idea," even more surprising is the degree of accountability many maintain.
The first episode opens on James Robertson, an inmate who after decades in prison purposefully murdered his cellmate (who he claims was a pedophile) in order to be put on death row. As this premeditated murder proved futile in his attempt for the death sentence, he took it to court where he eventually was given capital punishment.
After growing up in a broken home with drug abusing parents, Robertson found himself in and out of state penitentiaries from a very young age. After decades of prison it appeared he would never find himself free again.
Chilling as his interviews were, the viewer can't help but sympathize with Robertson to a certain extent as he appears calm, charismatic, and all-accepting.
Toward the end of the episode, Robertson muses on how he's come to accept his fate. The simple answer? Blame. He no longer blames anyone but himself:
"I was bitter when I was always blaming everybody else for... the way my life turned out and stuff. But I stopped doing that. And as a matter of principle, I gotta—I got to face the music.
I got to man up. I don't like hearing other people whine or talk about blaming the world and everything for all their problems. Life ain't always fair. People always saying, talking about how unfair the world is and stuff, ain't nobody ever said life was meant to be fair, ain't nobody up, up on a cloud wearing a robe and cane...saying 'I'm gonna make everything fair.' They, they ain't like that, man. You know? People just gotta accept that, man. You know? You're always trying to make the world...a better place, you know...ain't nothing perfect."
Although perhaps poorly worded, I found it pretty incredible to hear someone charged with capital murder, awaiting their turn to be executed, so calmly elucidate on blame. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty, there's something refreshing about hearing a murderer admit his responsibility, rather than find a scapegoat for his past decisions.
Today it appears no one wants to assume onus for anything. There is a constant game of "he said," "she did," "I don't know," etc… There has become a lack of responsibility in our society that needs to be addressed, whether it be big or small.
I think back on the times I've attempted to place the blame elsewhere, and the times I've owned up to my actions. The latter has always left me feeling better about myself than the prior.
Rightfully accepting one's share in the blame has become an attribute so few adults, young and old, possess in today's society. This bleeds into other necessary aspects of life, such as the ability to apologize and sympathize. So many people complain about life being unfair, blaming everyone and everything but themselves. The fact of the matter is, whining won't change a damn thing, action will.
If someone who committed a heinous crime can accept the blame, why can't you accept your own? As Robertson points out, life isn't always fair, so who are you to curse the world? Go out, accept your responsibility, and make your lot better than you found it.
Pride and respect can be found in one's own acceptance, regardless the magnitude.
As for James Robertson, when asked "How do you want to be remembered?" he replied "Somebody that always speaks the truth."
It would appear we can all learn a little bit about responsibility from this man sentenced to death.