He’s a six-foot-five former cop. She’s a glamorous Los Angeles lawyer.
This may sound like the pitch for a new TV sitcom, but the two investigators on the new Investigation Discovery show Reasonable Doubt are re-examining controversial real-life murder cases — and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Retired homicide detective Chris Anderson and Los Angeles–based criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz then help the desperate families of those convicted of murder decide if it’s time to appeal, or accept the guilty verdict once and for all.“The issue of wrongful convictions is one that is near and dear to my heart,” Anderson told CrimeFeed. “If you have a wrongful conviction it disrupts the entire system.”
Anderson said he clicked with Lewkowicz immediately. “Physically, we’re total opposites and look kind of like the millennial Odd Couple,” he said. “But it only took us about 45 minutes to figure out that, when it comes to investigations, we have very similar mindsets.”
Lewkowicz calls her partner “charming, dynamic, and brilliant” and says, “He’s got heart. He’s got soul. He’s very God-fearing and religious. When he’s on a case, he eats it, sleeps it, and breathes it. He becomes the case. That’s his skill set.”
Lewkowicz, who has obvious passion for her work, continues:
“We’re looking to expose the raw truth. We live in a world that is black and white, and we’re working in the gray area, where no one wants to look. It’s excruciating for Chris and I, as people who live for justice, to recognize cases where the justice system failed. But it’s also excruciating, in a different way, to deliver the sad news to families that, yes, this person needs to be behind bars, and it’s time to close the case.”
Anderson, who spent 21 years on the police force — and 17 to 18 working in homicide — said that he has lots of experience in digging for facts in an environment where there is constant pressure to make progress. “You have to compartmentalize, and remember that you are out there searching for the truth,” he said. “If you find yourself going down the wrong path, as an investigator you have to take two steps back — and maybe even sometimes start completely over.”
In the new show, the investigators often pore through clues previously overlooked by police – or barred by the court.
“I’m very good at reading people,” he says. “‘I’m able to ask those hard questions be a very good listener. I’m also not one-sided; you can always change my mindset if you have enough evidence. That’s my speciality.”
“Melissa is a very studious person,” Anderson says. “She’s very knowledgable about case law, she’s able to read and apply what she’s read to these cases, and we’re able to decompress everything that we’ve learned and figure out which way we’re going to decide on these cases.”
Anderson said that none of his cases when he was on the force ended in a wrongful conviction. “Often, wrongful convictions happen because there is only a single shred of evidence, or one ID witness when there should be several,” he said. “If I only had a single piece of evidence, I would keep going,” he added.
He also said that, even though it can, at times, be annoying for an investigator, in the end having a District Attorney with “very high standards” when pursuing criminal prosecution was an asset. “I’m thankful,” he said. “Because it made me have high standards as well.”The premiere episode follows the case of rapper McKinley “Mac” Phipps, Jr., who was convicted in 2001 of manslaughter charges in the death of Barron C. Victor, Jr., 19, during a nightclub shooting. Phipps, now 39, was sentenced to 30 years to life.
Before the shooting, Phipps was a rap phenomenon who went from recording his first album at age 12 to becoming a rising star on Master P‘s No Limit Records. His albums, 1998’s Shell Shocked and 1999’s World War III, were hits.
Phipps, who is currently behind bars in Louisiana, has always maintained his innocence.
In cases where he and his partner are forced to ultimately conclude that the right person is behind, bars, Anderson says he hopes the show can at least help the relatives of those incarcerated accept the verdict.
“Ultimately, it’s about giving the families closure,” he said.
Main photo: Chris Anderson and Melissa Lewkowicz [Investigation Discovery]