Man Proves His Innocence With Baseball Game Footage in New Netflix Documentary

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“You’re right to refer to me as a mega-huge Hollywood star,” deadpans Larry David. “That’s totally accurate”. It’s not often that such a comedy titan pops up in a true crime documentary.
Long Shot (Netflix) not only tells an extraordinary needle-in-a-haystack story but cannily times its release to coincide with David fever this weekend, when his HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm makes its slaveringly awaited return after six years off our screens.
This fascinating gem of a 40-minute film examines how how the fate of a man accused of murder rested on proving he was in a crowd of 54,000 at a baseball game – and how a certain misanthropic sitcom accidentally saved his life.
In May 2003, 16-year-old Martha Puebla was shot in the head on the doorstep of her Los Angeles home, days after testifying in a gangland murder trial. Police arrested 24-year-old Juan Catalan at gunpoint, alleging that he’d carried out the hit for his gangster brother Mario. 
Not only did softly-spoken family man Catalan not commit the crime but he had an alibi. At the time of Puebla’s cold-blooded killing, he was at Dodger Stadium with his six-year-old daughter, watching the home team lose to Atlanta Braves. Frustratingly, though, Catalan’s lawyer couldn’t find clear enough TV footage to prove it. 
Catalan still faced death row if found guilty at trial. Even worse, the prosecuting attorney was unbeaten in murder cases and nicknamed “Sniper” because she liked to pick off defendants with the death penalty. 
Then came the head-spinning twist. It just so happened that a series four episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm – titled The Car Pool Lane, it saw Larry pick up a prostitute to help him beat the traffic – was also being shot at the ballpark that night. 
Catalan’s lawyer combed through HBO’s footage – and eventually found the magical moment where Catalan and David walked right past each other on the stadium stairs, even brushing shoulders. Still more uncannily, the Seinfeld co-creator promptly turned and raised his arms in triumph. It’s as if he knew this was the frame that would get Catalan’s case dismissed.
 
It was a jaw-dropping coincidence. A one in a million chance. A long shot, like this documentary's title. As LA Dodgers’ senior vice president Sam Fernandez chuckles in amazement: “All of life is ‘what if?’”
Catalan was freed, emotionally reunited with his daughter and received a $320,000 settlement for his unjust five-month spell in maximum security prison. The sloppy LAPD detectives, who looked like naughty schoolboys caught with their hands in the tuck shop till, were removed from homicide duties. Gang members later got life sentences for the execution-style killing. 
Directed in understated style by Jacob LaMendola, this ticks many true-crime boxes: shock photos of the murder scene, cable news footage, tense courtroom scenes, teary first person testimony. What raises it out of the ordinary is David’s charismatic presence and the case’s astonishing nature. 
Typically, David ultimately undercuts this by casually shrugging off the whole saga. “Every few years at a party, I’ll tell the story of how I got a guy off a murder charge,” he concludes. “It’s maybe something I could impress a date with.”
Comedy can do many things. Here it helps an innocent man escape death. As David would say in Curb: pretty, pretty good. 

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