| After Innocence (2005) |
The Machinery that Manufactures Wrongful Convictions Still Operates:
This past weekend in Los Angeles, a friend and I went to see the debut of a new movie entitled, After Innocence.
I estimate there were between 100 and 150 people in the audience. It would hardly be fair to say the event was a movie debut, without pointing out that the movie debut also appeared to be an event actively showcasing the cause of the wrongly convicted. The movie, in my opinion, was excellent and showed the lives of a number of men who had been wrongly convicted of crimes, most involving charges of rape.
The men talked about:
- their lives before their convictions,
- what circumstances led to their convictions,
- what their lives were like in jail,
- their struggle to be freed by DNA evidence,
- what their lives were like after exoneration.
Many of the exonerated were struggling to receive compensation for their unjust treatment, and most were struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives after being devastated by the inhumanity of America’s legal system. The callousness of the system appeared frequently, while apologies for errors were few and far between. It was difficult to sit through the movie without feeling anger toward the cruelty and injustice our legal system created in these men’s lives. It was apparent from the reactions of others in the audience I was not alone in those feelings.
The movie was edited so that it also included the struggles of Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld and others in the Innocence Project as they worked to free the wrongly convicted. At one point in the movie a volunteer showed bundle after bundle of letters (from prisoners), in filing cabinets that staff had not even had the resources to open yet. It was an appalling site, considering the perilous existence of some DNA evidence in “official” storage.
After the movie, the writer/director Jessica Sanders conducted a Q & A with the audience. Along with her, were about half a dozen of the wrongly convicted men, some of whom were in the movie. An attorney who had assisted in the project was also on stage. In response to an audience question, the attorney’s stated it was his guess that between 1% and 5% of the current prison population was wrongly convicted. He went on to say, “That doesn’t sound like much, but given that our present prison population is 2,000,000, that works out to between 20,000 and 100,000 human beings. Although it was never mentioned in the Q & A, or the movie, 93% of those incarcerated are male. http://tinyurl.com/dcwzx
On the way out of the theatre, we passed by tables that sold baseball caps, t-shirts, books, and CD’s. The book that was on sale was entitled Surviving Justice, and is also available through Amazon.com.
The profits of the sales, we were told, went to support the work of The Innocence Project and other efforts that restore the lives of the wrongly convicted. I bought a baseball cap and a book and picked up extra fliers off the table. The fliers had info about how to request After Innocence for showings to civic groups and other venues. Here is the relevant excerpt from that flier:
Bring this film to a theatre or other venue near you by contacting New Yorker Films:”
I paused momentarily at one of the tables, while my friend asked questions. In several subsequent discussions with audience members, and people at tables, I mentioned that I was a member of the National Coalition of Free Men Los Angeles, and that “We encounter a lot of men who are “falsely accused.” “You know,” I said, “the preliminary step leading to wrongful convictions.”
In the lobby, my friend asked one of the attorneys in the group what culpability the government had for those wrongly convicted. He was told, "Unless it can be shown that the government was malicious, there is none." Perhaps the government hasn’t learned yet that the American public is very angry about all the "witch hunting" of innocent men going on, but there is a growing effort underway to "educate" them of that fact.
I highly recommend the movie After Innocence for one and all. The stories of wrongly convicted men, who have regained their freedom, is a heroic effort worth knowing. The stories of wrongly convicted men, struggling to regain the shattered pieces of their lives, is an American tragedy worthy of every citizen’s help and support to make right.
by Ray Blumhorst
Ray Blumhorst is member of the National Coalition of Free Men. He is retired, after working almost 31 years in California public schools. In addition to his day job, he worked for 8 years as a part time teacher in California public schools in the evenings. Ray is a Vietnam Vet. Ray is currently a litigant in a lawsuit against the State of California and the County of Los Angeles, regarding areas in which domestic violence laws discriminate against males.
Duration: 1 hour & 35 minutes