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 premiere sponsor Life Technologies.
Learn more about the story behind the film on our website, and when you see the film, let us know what you thought by posting on our Facebook page or on Twitter.
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 online Willingham Resource Center.
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 his 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.
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
Volunteer, Readiness to Learn Foundation
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.