HBO recently released “Who Killed Garrett Phillips?”, a chilling two-part documentary about a 12-year-old boy who was murdered in his home after school on October 24, 2011, and Nick Hillary, the man accused of doing it. The documentary is produced and directed by two-time Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner, Liz Garbus.
At first. the documentary seems like a typical true crime documentary. However, it slowly becomes apparent that it is also about the social injustice Nick Hillary faced during the trial. “Who Killed Garret Phillips?” gives background on Phillips’ mother, Tansy Cyrus, Hillary, and the community they lived in.
The documentary follows the 2016 trial, where Hillary was accused of second-degree murder. Because of social media comments filled with violent messages directed at Hillary, he requested a bench trial. Hillary and his lawyers would also later find out that one of the jurors was friends with the prosecutor.
Garbus does an excellent job focusing on law enforcement’s mistreatment of Hillary while reinforcing that the police had no idea who actually murdered 12-year-old Garrett. Police quickly zeroed in on Hillary after the murder, completely ignoring another man who should have been a top suspect.
“Whatever you might say about the film and how it portrays the justice system and Nick Hillary, my hope is that it also reflects the pain of the loss of this family and the gaping hole it left in their lives,” said Garbus in a Variety Magazine interview.
Nick Hillary is a Jamaican-born man who was living in Potsdam, New York, a predominantly white town of roughly 16,000 people. Hillary and his lawyers believe race played a huge role in his arrest and indictment. Hillary said in a Mel Magazine interview, “I was never viewed by the community as an African-American, I was viewed by the community as being a Jamaican. But the moment this situation came to the surface, I was shifted from the ‘Jamaican’ title to the ‘African-American’ title.”
The documentary shows how the Potsdam Police Department lied to Hillary, completed an unnecessary strip search and photographed all of his body, and even violated some of his Miranda Rights, despite there being only circumstantial evidence. One of the detectives admits they did take pictures of one other person, but only so Hillary would not be the only one.
Hillary’s personal life has been turned upside down due to the accusations against him. He was forced out of his job as a soccer coach and rarely leaves his home now.
There were new leads brought into the case in March of this year, according to a Northern New York newspaper, nny360.com
Hillary was found not guilty at his bench trial in 2016, and the investigation to find Garrett Phillips’ murderer is still ongoing. “Who Killed Garrett Phillips?” is available to watch on HBO Now as well as HBO Go, and is rated TV-MA.