The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez Review


“They [CPS] had a job and their job was to save a little boy”

It’s rare that one comes across a show so harrowing it’s difficult to watch. As I sat there listening to Gabriel’s story be told over six different episodes, I felt a heaviness in my chest that I’ve since come to recognize as powerlessness. Words can’t describe just how agonizing it was to watch people recall how someone so young and so full of life, was stripped of his humanity by the ones who were supposed to love him. Not only was he failed by his parents, but he was failed once again by the child protective services who witnessed his abuse and allowed him to remain with his mother. However, the goal of the show wasn’t only to bring attention to Gabriel’s heart-wrenching story. Instead, it took his story and brought about an important and needed conversation regarding the flaws in the current child protective services guidelines.

photograph of Gabriel Fernandez

Netflix’s hit 2020 docu-series, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez tells the true story of Gabriel Fernandez, the 8-year-old boy who was tortured and murdered by his mother and step-father in 2013. The show follows Jon Hatimi, one of the prosecutors in Gabriel’s case, as he and his team went through the legal trials against Gabriel’s mother and step-father. However, Hatami and his team went a step further and did something that had never been done in California’s history: they sued the social workers who failed to report Gabriel’s injuries and didn’t remove him from his mother’s custody despite obvious signs of child neglect. The show’s six, hour-long episodes, delve into the tragedy of Gabriel’s life and what could have been done by the child protective system to save him and other children like him. Along with providing insight into the case, the show brought in witnesses and specialists who tried to report Gabriel’s abuse but where ultimately ignored. The show has brought about an incredibly powerful conversation regarding the protection of children in abusive households, and how it should be handled by child protective services.

While this was an incredibly difficult show to watch, it’s one that is necessary. It brought to light many issues that have been ignored by the child protection system for far too long, and that have sadly cost too many children’s lives. While Gabriel is the most recent victim to the system flaw, he’s not the first, and if there is no change to the guidelines he will not be the last. I do recommend that people take time to prepare themselves for the difficult topics in the show. However, I do urge everyone to watch it and learn about Gabriel’s story.

Rating: 100/100