In the classic 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the protagonist, Ferris Bueller, feigns illness in an attempt to skip a day of school. During his day as a truant, Bueller gallivants around town while trying to avoid his parents and his school’s principal, Mr. Rooney, lest his ruse be discovered. Throughout the day, he has many close calls. For example, Ferris (above, center, with his girlfriend Sloane and best friend Cameron) go to the Cubs game, and the television cameras catch them cheering in the stands. At that moment, Mr. Rooney is at a pizza parlor which has the game on the TV, but thankfully for Ferris, Rooney looks away just as evidence of Ferris’ guilt flashes on the screen.
For Ferris Bueller, being caught on camera at the ballpark almost lead to trouble. For a man named Juan Catalan, a similar filming saved him from an even worse fate.
On May 12, 2003, a 16 year old woman named Martha Puebla was murdered. Catalan was the prime suspect, as Puebla had recently testified against his brother in a previous trial. Catalan was arrested and incarcerated while waiting trial. He professed his innocence, asserting that he had taken his six year old daughter to the Dodgers game that day and therefore could not have been at the scene of the murder at the time of the crime. Catalan, through his attorney, provided the district attorney with his ticket stubs, but the DA pressed charges anyway.
According to CBS News, Catalan’s attorney, Todd Melnik, went to look at the video tape of the game. First, he obtained the internal stadium film and the Fox Sports footage from the game’s television broadcast. Some of the footage panned over to what was allegedly his client’s seat location, but no one was able to discern if Catalan was the blurry image sitting in that seat. Any chance at affirming Catalan’s alibi looked increasingly bleak.
But then Melnik received some surprising news. HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm was shooting an episode at the ballpark that day. Melnik obtained their raw footage and, in a clip which did not make the final episode, saw his client, clear as day. Combined with the other holes in the prosecutor’s case, Melnik believed his client was likely to be set free.
He was right. Shortly after Melnik found his client on film, the judge in Catalan’s case released him from custody and had the charges against him dropped, citing a lack of evidence against him.
Bonus fact Trifecta!: (1) The Ferris Bueller baseball game occured on June 5, 1985, as determined by this painstaking article by Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus. (2) Also in the movie, Cameron totals his father’s Ferrari when its brake becomes dislodged and it goes through the glass walls of the lofted showroom garage in his house. The Ferrari was up for auction in 2010, but, as reported by USA Today, it wasn’t a Ferrari — rather, it was an MG topped with the fiberglass body of the Ferrari it purported to be. (3) As for the house? It’s real, and as of January of 2011, it was for sale for $1.65 million. Want to check it out? Autoblog has a photo gallery.
From the Archives: Lunch and a Murder: Solving crimes over a meal.
Related: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on DVD or Amazon Instant. If you haven’t seen it… yikes.