Richard Wershe, Jr, aka White Boy Rick, is the subject of a true-crime documentary that recently landed on Netflix. Shawn Rech, the award-winning director and producer of White Boy (2017), joins us to talk about the tragic circumstances surrounding White Boy Rick’s over-30-year incarceration for a nonviolent offence.
Shawn is well-known for creating documentaries that help to overturn wrongful convictions or over-sentencing. White Boy tells the story of Richard, who was an FBI informant as a child and an alleged cocaine kingpin in Detroit in the 1980s.
Richard received a life sentence despite being just 17 years old. The film looks at his case, shining a stark light onto 1980s Detroit and the American justice system.
We talk about the White Boy Rick’s reputation, who he really was, and the racism and unjust laws that allowed a child to be groomed by the FBI.
“Don’t always trust the government, and don’t always trust the media. Do your own investigating and vet your sources.” – Shawn Rech
00:15 – The trailer for the documentary White Boy.
03:00 – Why White Boy has only just come out on Netflix in the US.
05:41 – The reputation of Richard Wershe, Jr and the reality of who he was.
08:14 – What Detroit was like in the 1980s and how corrupt it was.
10:05 – The racist nature of the accusations surrounding Richard.
14:23 – The FBI operation ‘Backbone’ that was deliberately quashed.
17:41 – The unjust laws and sentencing surrounding crack cocaine convictions.
21:15 – The draconian sentencing Richard received as a juvenile.
24:14 – What’s happened to Richard since the documentary released in 2017.
28:30 – The hitman that confessed to 30 murders but received a light sentence.
31:20 – What it was like when hitman Nathaniel Boone Craft turned up to the screening.
36:32 – The fictional film that was based on Richard’s life.
38:52 – What the role of documentaries is with regards to the criminal justice system.
40:28 – The documentary Shawn is making about Making a Murderer.
50:31 – Why it took Netflix so long to license White Boy.
53:15 – Why Shawn advocates for self-distribution.
59:13 – The way you can get rich in the documentary film business.
1:00:19 – White Boy‘s legacy and what Shawn is working on now.