“Conviction” and Innocence

From: The Innocence Project
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:20 AM
To: shereekrider
Subject: “Conviction” and Innocence

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Innocence Project Innocence Project

In This Issue

The Story Behind “Conviction”

Arson and Injustice

Compensating the Exonerated

Why I Give: A Donor Profile

News Watch


Grisham’s “Confession”

“The Confession,” John Grisham’s newest legal thriller, hit bookstores Tuesday. The novel tells the story of a murderer who decides to confess to save the life of a man who was wrongly convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Read more.

Texas: After 27 Years, Finally Free

Michael Anthony Green was officially exonerated last week when the state’s highest criminal court declared him actually innocent. He was freed July 30 after spending 27 years in prison for a rape that DNA tests prove he didn’t commit. Read more.

New York: “I Did It”

A feature article in New York Magazine this month examined the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Innocence Project client Frank Sterling, who served 18 years in New York prisons for a murder DNA proves he didn’t commit. Sterling confessed to the crime after 12 hours in police custody, which included hypnosis. The article looks at the issue of false confessions and recording of interrogations. Read more.

National: Supreme Court hears Death Row DNA Case

Hank Skinner came within 40 minutes of being executed in March before the U.S. Supreme Court stayed his execution in order to consider his right to seek DNA testing under federal civil rights law. The justices heard oral arguments in the case on October 13, and a decision is expected by the spring. Read argument transcripts, download briefs and more.

The Supreme Court also heard arguments in Connick v. Thompson, which centers on the right of a defendant to sue prosecutors’ offices for their failure to train staff on the legal obligation to turn over evidence pointing to innocence. The Innocence Network filed a brief on Thompson’s behalf. Read transcripts and media coverage here.

Take Action


Urge the U.S. Senate to form a national criminal justice commission to examine the system and recommend reforms.

What Youre Saying


“Went to the screening in Hollywood last week to see “Conviction.” What an outstanding movie for the world to see. Thank you, Innocence Project for all you’ve done to get wrongful conviction stories out there!!” Camille T. (via Facebook )

Bravo #Conviction Inspired by the work of @innocenceblog….nothing but tears & sniffles from those in attendance, including Sam Rockwell
@BKsRobeson (via Twitter)

Help Free the Innocent

With the generous support of individuals like you the Innocence Project has exonerated scores of innocent people and worked around the country to reform our criminal justice system.


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We welcome your feedback. Please contact us at the address below. Cases for review must be submitted via postal mail. You can also email us with questions or for more information.

The Innocence Project
Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva Unversity
100 Fifth Ave., 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011

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The Story Behind “Conviction”

In theaters: the true story of Betty Anne Waters’ quest to free her brother, starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell.

The new film “Conviction” continued to draw positive reviews this week and to raise awareness nationwide about the issue of wrongful convictions. The movie, which tells the story of Betty Anne Waters’ two-decade fight to free her brother Kenny, opens nationwide tomorrow and will continue to reach more theaters in the weeks ahead.

Above, left to right, Sam Rockwell, who plays Kenny Waters; Betty Anne Waters; and Hilary Swank, who plays Betty Anne.

See the movie and get behind the scenes:

Watch the trailer and find showtimes near you

Watch a new Innocence Project PSA with Hilary Swank

Watch interviews with Betty Anne Waters, Hilary Swank and others

See photos of Betty Anne and Kenny Waters over the years

Send Betty Anne an email with your reaction to the film and her story

Share the trailer with your friends via email, Facebook or Twitter

“Conviction” tells the story of Kenny Waters, who was convicted of a murder in Massachusetts that he didn’t commit. His sister Betty Anne put herself through college and law school in her fight to set Kenny free, and with the help of the Innocence Project, she obtained access to the DNA tests that eventually proved his innocence and led to his exoneration in 2001.

The Innocence Project hosted a red-carpet New York premiere of the film on October 13, raising funds to support our work. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the donors who attended, including premier sponsor Life Technologies.

Learn more about the story behind the film, and when you see the film, let us know what you thought by posting on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Arson and Injustice

PBS “Frontline” looks at Willingham case.

The Cameron Todd Willingham arson case was the subject of emotional testimony and in-depth media coverage this month. The investigation into the faulty science behind the critical forensics evidence used to convict Willingham is set to gain steam in the weeks ahead.

PBS’ Frontline aired an hour-long documentary this month exploring the case – watch the full episode online.

Willingham was convicted in 1992 of starting a fire at his home that killed his three young daughters. He was executed in 2004, despite reports presented to Texas officials discrediting the arson investigation that was central to his conviction. At the request of the Innocence Project, the Texas Forensic Science Commission has been investigating the forensics used to convict Willingham. At a meeting this month, commissioners debated whether chairman John Bradley had jeopardized the panel’s independence by publicly calling Willingham a “guilty monster.”

Also this month, a Texas judge held a hearing to determine whether or not to convene a Court of Inquiry in the case. Arson experts and key witnesses in the case testified on October 14, but the outcome of the hearing is uncertain after a state appeals court blocked the judge from ruling.

Get more background on the case in our Willingham Resource Center.

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Alan Newton

Compensating the Exonerated

New York Exoneree Alan Newton Receives $18.5 Verdict

A federal jury ruled this month that New York City had violated the constitutional rights of exoneree Alan Newton and that police officers had inflicted emotional distress by failing for more than a decade to produce the evidence that eventually set him free. The jury’s ruling awarded Newton $18.5 million, which is among the largest amounts ever received by an exonerated person after serving years of wrongful incarceration.

Newton served more than two decades in New York prisons for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA tests proved his innocence in 2006. For 11 years of his sentence, Newton repeatedly requested access to DNA evidence, but was told — incorrectly — that the evidence could not be located. At the request of the Innocence Project, a final search was conducted, and the evidence was located in the same barrel that had been listed on his evidence voucher throughout. Tests on this evidence proved Newton’s innocence and led to his exoneration.

Only about 60% of the 261 DNA exonerees nationwide have received any form of compensation for the injustice they suffered. While 27 U.S. states have laws compensating the exonerated, these vary widely and many are woefully inadequate. Most states provide no services — such as job counseling, housing or health care — to the exonerated.

Find the law in your state and learn more about the Innocence Project’s efforts to expand exoneree compensation laws.

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Why I Give: A Donor Profile

Diane Cvetovich
Volunteer, Readiness to Learn Foundation
Clinton, WA

It’s difficult to imagine being in prison for a crime I didn’t commit. The wrongfully convicted must feel so helpless. I support the Innocence Project because the organization brings hope to victims of this grim injustice.

I have supported the Innocence Project for years and have included the group in my will. But I was moved to make another donation this month after I saw an advance screening of the film “Conviction.” The true story of Betty Anne Waters’ fight to free her brother is both devastating and inspiring, and it comes to life on the screen through powerful performances by Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Juliette Lewis and others. I’m so glad that the film will help raise awareness for this worthy organization.

It’s important that the film will help spread the word about wrongful convictions because I don’t think it’s an issue most people know about. I bring it up often to friends and occasionally just get blank stares in response. “Conviction” could change that. This is a tragedy that could happen to any one of us, and it’s up to all of us to play a role in fixing the system to prevent wrongful convictions.

I’m doing everything I can to fight injustice. Will you join me?

Make a donation today or find other ways to get involved.

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