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By the time Liz Garbus’s two-part documentary “Who Killed Garrett Phillips?” debuts on HBO, there could be a new public lead in the case of the murdered titular 12-year-old. As least, that’s what many may hope after the new St. Lawrence County district attorney admitted a new tip earlier this spring. Garbus says she would do a follow-up to her doc if need be, but she admits that after her experience getting to know the Potsdam police for the project, she doesn’t think it’s likely.
“The chief of police is now Mark Murray, who was the lead detective on the case. He thought Nick [Hillary] was the guy, so I think the likelihood of this being pursued by the police — and the DA needs the police to do the pursuing — is pretty low. But I hope I’m wrong about that,” Garbus tells Variety.
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Over four hours, Garbus’s “Who Killed Garrett Phillips?” painstakingly covers the surprising murder that rocked the small town in Northern New York in 2011. Starting with talking heads with the neighbors who first called 9-1-1 after hearing a crash and ominous moaning coming from inside the Phillips’ apartment, Garbus takes her audience back to Phillips’ last moments and then expands the story to include similar interviews with police and journalists alike who investigated the crime, as well as the former district attorney who pushed for an arrest, Phillips’ uncle Brian, and the man who stood trial for the crime (Hillary).
After first reading about the case in a New York Times article, Garbus recalls being struck by the “thematic issues and concerns that, I think, are ones that spoke to larger systemic problems.” Specifically what caught her attention was that the local police’s focus was on one of Phillips’ mother’s ex-boyfriends, a Jamaican American man who was well-known...
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