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Is Defending Jacob a True Story?

April 23, 2020
3 min read

‘Defending Jacob’ is a crime mini-series directed by Morten Tyldem. Starring Chris Evans (Captain America: Civil War), Jaeden Martell (Knives Out), and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), the series explores the trials and tribulation of a father who is faced with an enormous situation concerning his son. The life of the family in Massachusetts is turned upside down when Jacob is charged with first-degree murder.

Jacob’s father, who is the district attorney, faces issues at work due to this. The mystery behind the crime takes all of its characters for a ride. The suspense hangs on with the edging doubt of whether Jacob really did commit the crime and the conflict his father faces regarding the truth and his love for his son.

Is Defending Jacob Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Defending Jacob’ is not based on a true story. The series takes inspiration from a book of the same name. The book, ‘Defending Jacob’ written by William Landay, received notable fame after it was well-received by the critics. The book, which got the Strand Magazine Critics Award, is a crime drama novel in which Jacob, a 14-year-old, is held in suspicion regarding the murder of one of his classmates, Ben. Top Prosecutor Andy Barber, Jacob’s father, is torn with the surmounting evidence against his son and his love for him. The novel, which lends itself to the eight-episode series, sticks true to the narrative of the book.

The Motivation

William Landay was an Assistant District Attorney in the 1990s. He uses his experience from the days he spent in court. In Talks with Google, post the release of his book, he opens up about the real factors that played in the making of his novel. The first one is his role as a father who strives to do well for his children. He was influenced by the idea of many being complacent with the distance of crimes from one’s own life. For instance, when we read about murders and murderers, we see it occurring in a reality that is far removed from ours. This complacency, however, shakes up a bit when unexpected crimes in a similar family like yours occur elsewhere. As a father and a lawyer, Landay weaves in this factor to ‘Defending Jacob.’

The one thing Landay claims to be absolutely true is the violent behavior imprint that we carry around in our genes. This scientifically known fact of the MAOA chromosome is something he uses in the book. He uses the example of the Jeffrey Landrigan case.

In this iconic case, where Landrigan grew up as an orphan in foster homes, he was convicted of stabbing his friend with a knife. The similarity between this and how Jacob was known to carry around a knife in the series is uncanny. More so, as Landrigan continued to kill people both in jail and outside, a shocking revelation came to light. His biological father was a murderer serving time in prison. This sparked the interest of several studies that soon ensued. The supposed ‘killer gene’ invokes a tendency to harm or defend by resorting to violence. Though wildly contested, Landay uses this case and its facts as a big impetus in his book.

The crime drama based on the novel, is hence, a fictitious representation of years of experience, thoughts, and personal beliefs. What also makes it strikingly closer to home is the hitting reality of several crimes to which teenagers have been proven guilty.

Read More: Best Crime Series on Netflix

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