Justice can vary from county to county – and voters have a say on that. That’s message of a documentary from an Asheville-based filmmaker that debuts Wednesday evening.
‘Just Over The Line’ looks at the story of Daniel Noell, a homeless man who was arrested in both Buncombe And Yancey Counties for the same crime. Specifically, Noll was asked by two people who had picked him up off the street to buy pills at different drug stores.
"He said to me that he knew he was doing something that wasn't 100% right," says filmmaker Adams Wood, the director and creator of 'Just Over The Line.' "But he had not understanding of the legal ramifications of what he was doing." Wood says Noell was eventually arrested and charged in both counties with drug trafficking. Buncombe and Yancey Counties are served by different district attorneys, Democrat Todd Williams in Buncombe, and Republican Seth Banks, whose district includes Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga, and Yancey Counties. Williams is interviewed in the film, while Banks declined multiple interview requests according to Wood. Noell received different sentences in those counties – probation in Buncombe, and six years in prison in Yancey.
Wood calls this a major disparity in the justice system. "There are (sentencing) options are a lot more nuanced than just saying 'we're going to be tough on drug crime.' There's interventions, there a pre-trial diversions."
Wood wants viewers of his film to have many takeaways from it including this - voters can weigh in on this issue, as district attorneys are elected officials. They are not on the ballot again until 2022, but members of the General Assembly that set sentencing laws that prosecutors and judges follow, are this year.
Just Over The Line is a production of Independent Lens in association with Blue Ridge Public Radio, and premiered Wednesday October 28th on the BPR Facebook page. You can watch the premiere, which includes the film and a discussion with filmmaker Adams Wood and Ben Finholt, the director of the Just Sentencing Project of NC Prisoner Legal Services, on the BPR Facebook page. Below is the full documentary 'Just Over The Line' by Adams Wood. After watching the film, please take this survey.