The Fear of 13


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First there was the Avery Family. Now, there’s the captivating life of Nick Yarris.

Say what you will of The Lake Superior Son, Steven Avery, and the Netflix phenomena he became earlier this year with Making a Murderer—but Netflix’s The Fear of 13 is the next tragically beautiful, TRUE story on America’s Prison System Flaws featuring Nick Yarris, a man who spent twenty-one years in prison, assigned ‘life’ on death row. Yes, Nick was a fairly troubled young man making wrong decisions, but his freedom of life was taken from him at twenty—for crimes he didn’t commit.

What was probably going to simply be a two car robbery charge became charges of murder, rape, kidnapping of an officer, etc. I mean, Yarris’ life was O-V-E-R—“Game over, man.” I don’t want to give too much away, but due to the fact that science hadn’t cracked “DNA Testing” yet is why Yarris was to serve the sentence he was given, even after being “proven” innocent of the murder. Sound familiar? The same thing happened with Stephen Avery’s case; the only difference is that Avery was mentally incompetent where Yarris was bright.

Problems continued to arise for this guy on a biblical level—like the life of Saul. Every hope of salvation was repeatedly crushed, be it discarded evidence to tampered DNA samples to his wife leaving him. It wouldn’t be until January of 2004 that Yarris would be a truly free man (even after his brief “escape”). He was first tried in 1982.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever sat and really listened to another human being for an hour and a half as intently and closely as I did with Yarris. The Fear of 13 is the portrait of a man who lost everything but has since gained everything back and more. The story of Nick Yarris was not a big time, national case. It was a smaller affair kept mainly within the confines of Pennsylvania.

Now I have my thoughts and discrepancies with the judicial/prison system, but I feel that the sentence of “Life” is so extreme, especially when it comes down to smaller crimes. So I have to ask myself—Why does the system continue to let men like Yarris carry out these outlandish and outdated sentences? There are men and women, right now, serving their life in a box, probably getting nuttier every day, because their truths have either been misrepresented, not thoroughly examined, and so on. Nowadays, we have shows made left and right about solving insane crimes with science and technology—but like Yarris and Avery, some convicts didn’t have those advancements. Again, with these advancements now, why is our system the way it is? I mean, if VICE has to get President Obama to have a sit down with prison inmates about the system, then clearly there’s an issue/has been an issue for quite some time.

Whatever it is that I may think “should be,” I’m just an artist with my thoughts on the matter. However, I would like to point out that I think Netflix, as a company, is producing more relevant content such as these big, murder cases. What are they doing? Painting an equal story striving for justice, for innocence. The Making a Murderer series created talk, uproar, and public participation for Steven Avery’s retrial to be considered. That came from people just watching this show! I mean, although Yarris’ story ends well, the turmoil he shares with us, the audience, is equal, if not more excruciating at times than Avery’s, putting that same fire in us that we felt with Avery’s story. Netflix is onto something big (I feel) by releasing these kinds of stories to us on the table…

If you’re going to take everything from me, okay.

Then instead, I think I’ll give myself everything.”

-Nick Yarris

I highly recommend this movie because—never mind. I left so many juicy parts of this story untouched, so do yourselves a favor: sit down with this movie instead of re-watching The Office for the billionth time. Deal? I promise you that not only will you get the feels and the possible tear flow at parts, you will leave watching this movie inspired, motivated, and uplifted; and I guarantee that you’ll be reminded how valuable and priceless your life really is.