October 23, 2006

"After Innocence" Movie Review

"AFTER INNOCENCE tells the dramatic and compelling story of the exonerated - innocent men wrongfully imprisoned for decades and then released after DNA evidence proved their innocence. The film focuses on the gripping story of seven men and their emotional journey back into society and efforts to rebuild their lives. Included are a police officer, an army sergeant and a young father sent to prison and even death row for decades for crimes they did not commit."

"The film raises basic questions about human rights and society's moral obligation to the innocent and places a spotlight on the flaws in our criminal justice system that lead to wrongful conviction of the innocent. The film features exonerees Dennis Maher of Lowell, MA; Calvin Willis of Shreveport, LA; Scott Hornoff of Providence, RI; Wilton Dedge of Cocoa Beach, FL; Vincent Moto of Philadelphia, PA; Nick Yarris of Philadelphia, PA; and Herman Atkins of Los Angeles, CA." Source

Perhaps it all started with Harrison Ford's role as "The Fugitive" in 1993. Or perhaps it's because in recent years almost 400 inmates have been proven innocent and released from prison after being convicted of crimes they didn't commit.

Whatever the reason, the idea that America's criminal justice system is insufferably flawed is steadily gaining traction in the public mind.

But what's been largely missing from the media's love affair with innocence is the soul behind this sensational story: the fact that behind each exonerated prisoner is a person with a life and a family beyond prison bars. The tragedy of post-conviction exoneration isn't just what it reveals about the grim state of our legal system, but the fact that after being released, many exonerees receive little more than an apology: no compensation, education, job training or emotional counseling. They're expected, instead, to walk away smiling from cells they didn't deserve to inhabit in the first place, grateful for the chance to re-enter old lives that, for many, feel as outdated as an ill-fitting high school sweater.

It's this struggle -- not just to readjust to life post-exoneration, but to win state compensation for wasted years -- that Los Angeles filmmaker Jessica Sanders attempts to capture in her powerful new documentary, "After Innocence," which premiered to wide acclaim at last January's Sundance Film Festival and premiered on Showtime October 19th.

"Wrongful conviction can happen to anyone," Sanders reminds us.

Read the New York Times Review of the moive HERE