Netflix’s latest true-crime documentary Curry and Cyanide, which investigates the sensational serial murders of six members of a family in Kerala’s Koodathayi, has come under criticism for its alleged attempt to establish the guilt of an accused who is still under trial. Alleging that the documentary sets a “dangerous trend,” forensic expert Krishnan Rajendran has taken to Facebook to point out that Jolly Joseph, the accused in the case, hasn’t yet been proven guilty. He says the film was especially concerning because it was not just a “cinematic adaptation” but featured “actual protagonists,” including relatives of the accused and the six deceased persons, who are witnesses still appearing before the court in this case.
“Imagine you have been accused of a severe crime and a case has been registered against you. You get arrested and remanded. You don’t get bail. The case reaches the court, and again, you don’t get bail. You remain an under-trial prisoner. The trial is actively progressing, and witness examinations are more than half-way done. At this point, a film/documentary based on your case gets released, that too on a popular OTT platform like Netflix. The ‘actors’ in this film include the real complainants, the defence lawyer, the investigating officer, the witnesses associated with the case, and the defacto complainant,” Krishnan Rajendran sets a scene for people to consider. He says that even before the court announces its verdict, this documentary has already “proved” before the public that you are the culprit in this case.
Krishnan, who is a senior forensic surgeon at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Government T D Medical College of Alappuzha, says, “If you don’t see any problem with real people associated with a case (including forensic experts) appearing in a documentary to create a public perception about the accused who is currently facing trial, I think you people need to wake up.”
“Let the accused in the case be convicted if found guilty or otherwise acquitted,” says the forensic expert. “But everyone would do well to understand the dangerous tendencies inherent in this trend. Many people of our land know well to build a specific narrative and use it to sway public perception,” he adds.
Jolly Joseph was arrested in October 2019 and was soon accused of killing six people over a period of 14 years, from 2002 to 2016. This included her in-laws, husband, husband’s uncle, a relative and her child. In the documentary, Jolly’s son Remo, her sister-law Renji who was the de facto complainant in the case, investigating officer KG Simon, Dr V V Pillay who is the head of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, and Jolly’s lawyer BA Aloor make appearances. It is, however, to be noted that this is not the first programme based on Jolly’s alleged cyanide killings. Earlier, a podcast called Death, Lies and Cyanide had taken a detailed look at the case.
The Koodathayi case is currently in the trial stage at the Kozhikode Additional Sessions court, with advocate BA Aloor, who appeared for Jolly, arguing that she had been arraigned as an accused without sufficient evidence. Jolly had filed a discharge petition before the Sessions court citing lack of evidence, but the court discharged it. She approached the Kerala High Court as well, but the HC refused to interfere with the decision of the Sessions Court.