Tuesday, August 7, 2012

After Innocence (2004) NR - 3½ Stars

This documentary will make you think twice about our criminal justice system and how seriously flawed it is. Jessica Sanders does a great job interviewing at least 10 men who have been wrongly convicted and released. I was surprised that most of these men were not more bitter. On some cases, everything they had, good jobs, nice home and family life, has been destroyed with no more than a "whoops sorry about that!" Even the police themselves can fall pray. One of the men interviewed was a police officer who spent way many years behind bars where even his badge couldn't save him.

I can't even imagine what it would be liked to be yanked off the streets, handcuffed, taken away and accused of a crime you didn't do, spending 20 plus years in jail. Being accused of murder or rape, many of these men have received life sentences and they are totally innocent. This makes me have mixed emotions about my hard stand on the death penalty. On one hand, I believe when one takes another's life in a crime of passion, the good old rule of an eye for an eye should take place. This can save tax payers lots of money keeping someone alive in a jail where they get better health care and services than a lot of our upstanding, yet poor, citizens. Then, on the other hand, what if innocent men or women are executed or sent away for life sentences when they've done nothing wrong. This is the basis of this documentary which profiles 10 men who have been wrongly accused.

Even after DNA has cleared these men of all charges, some were still not promptly released till years later. And what about the cases that are so old, DNA evidence was not taken at the time or was destroyed or become lost in the haystack of chaotic order. To me, it's very surprising that these men still have their dignity even now as they're still considered criminals with records that have not been cleared. Somehow these men have kept their pride. They can never get back the time they've lost, they're not given any monetary compensation, no emotional therapy and not even the basic job training needed to fit back into society. Some families have bankrupted their retirements funds and placed mortgages on their homes, fighting for the justice of their loved one. Shouldn't someone be responsible and do more for these men?

The documentary also talks with "eye witnesses" who wrongly pointed the finger and how they feel today knowing their testimony helped put an innocent man away. Project Innocence was formed with the emergence of DNA evidence and today they are still hard at work looking into an overload of cases of the wrongly accused. I believe more attention should be paid to this as their case load is overwhelming of new clients eager to be heard. Bravo Jessica Sanders for the hard work done.

2005 - Sundance Film Festival - Special Jury Prize

American Film Foundation, Showtime Independent Films, New Yorker Films
Director: Jessica Sanders
Writers: Marc Simon, Jessica Sanders
Producers: Marc Simon, Jessica Sanders
I viewed 6/12

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