Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Warning: The contents of this review mention sensitive topics with regards to child abuse and torture.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a six-part documentary series released on Netflix in February 2020. It follows the trials of Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez who were charged with the death of eight year-old Gabriel Fernandez. He was systematically abused and tortured over a period of a few months before his tragic death on the May 22, 2013. Pearl Fernandez, who is Gabriel’s biological mother, and Aguirre (Pearl’s boyfriend) were convicted and sentenced for their crimes in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
The series is packed with interviews from Gabriel’s family, journalists, attorneys Jon Hatami and Scott Andrew Yang (prosecuting attorneys on behalf of Gabriel’s case) as well as several other key persons who either testified as witnesses or were jurors on the high profile case.
It brings to light the brutality and inhumanity suffered by an innocent child who lost his life after reported signs of abuse to the relevant authorities went unheeded. Fair warning—this series is an extremely difficult watch because it is particularly graphic in certain descriptions as well as photos. But it was necessary to drive home Gabriel’s suffering at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend. The layers on a failed and corrupted system of child welfare services are peeled back to show how it became more and more about making money than the actual interest of the children.
It was an extremely eye-opening experience for me and it was very difficult to comprehend how a parent can do this to their child. However, the brutality seemed to have been motivated by a hatred for a sensitive child who was a bit different from other boys. I don’t want to go much further on this theory because this particular area did not form part of the trial, but it did seem to be a strong motivator for the abuse that Gabriel suffered.
Unfortunately, Gabriel is not the first nor the last child to suffer fatally from neglect and abuse. But the case’s publicity has sparked a certain level of interest and prodding into how these particular cases are being handled by the state agencies. It is frustratingly apparent that these types of organisations get caught up in bureaucratic red tape and corruption of the monetary kind while many, many abused and neglected children slip through the cracks.
One thing is for certain, and that is the system failed to protect Gabriel since there were numerous incidents and opportunities to save him. Two social workers and their supervisors for the LA County Department of Children and Family Services were fired and charged with child abuse as well as falsifying public records. They faced being imprisoned for more than 10 years with regards to the case but the charges were eventually dismissed for a lack of probable cause. But from what I saw it managed to shake things up a bit and scared the ever-living crap out of them.
I have to admit though that seeing the expressionless faces of Pearl Hernandez and Isauro Aguirre really rubbed me the wrong way. They were referred to as “monsters” and I totally agree. When Pearl Hernandez was called upon to address the court after her conviction and sentencing her words felt empty and jumbled. There was clearly no remorse from any of them for what they did to Gabriel, and in the end a little boy lost his life in an environment that clearly lacked the love and nurturing that any child deserves.
So if you are a true-crime junkie like myself it is definitely a great series. But don’t forget to grab that box of tissues and keep them handy.
Alice’s Score: 8 out of 10
For my review of Netflix serial killer docu-series Night Stalker you can click here. Or for Senior Writer Sommer’s review of Guantanamo Bay prisoner biopic The Mauritanian you can click here.
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook where you’ll get my reviews hot off the press. You can also find me on Instagram as alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For my extended bio you can click here.