We Met Carl King, ‘True Hero’ Depicted in Sundance Award-Winning Film Crown Heights

By Alicia Maule

Lakeith Stanfield who portrays wrongly convicted Colin Warner in film "Crown Heights".

“The film will show you that it didn’t take a law professor or a big-time attorney to turn things around — just people who care,” Carl King said to the audience following a sold-out BAM Rose Cinemas screening of the new biographical award-winning movie Crown Heights.

King, depicted in the film, is the real-life best friend of Colin Warner who was an 18-year-old Trinidadian American who was wrongly convicted in 1982 of murder in the largely West Indian Brooklyn neighborhood. With no law degree or prior legal experience, King became Warner’s lead advocate in the fight to prove his innocence and persevered despite decades of setbacks.

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Hailed as a true hero by several people in the theatre, King was joined on the panel by Innocence Project  Speaker’s Bureau speaker Rodney Roberts, Equal Justice Initiative’s Cathleen Price and Brooklyn public defender Deborah Silberman to discuss key themes from the film.

The crowd was largely made up of people affected by the criminal justice system, lawyers, advocates, and survivors who seemed to overwhelmingly relate to Warner’s tragic story from beginning to end. If you haven’t already seen the film, we highly recommend it; King affirmed that the “depiction was on point.”

Related: Book an Innocence Project speaker at your next event 

The experts on the panel also resoundingly agreed that the film was accurate in portraying systemic failures of criminal justice. True to King’s advocacy, they believe that it takes more than lawyers to fight injustice and encouraged every person there to vote locally, befriend an incarcerated person and never give up hope when a loved one is wrongly imprisoned.

Take a look at more highlights from the conversation that underlined a variety of issues including the impact of incarceration on family, police misconduct and the complexity of the guilty plea system.

Impact on family:

Road to justice is hard fought:

Challenges of New York policy:

Why people plead guilty:

Re-entry after incarceration:

Call to action:



    There is so much fear put on us out here. A Pastor told me that if I let everything go the way they are, let my son be in prison for even five years, everything will be okay but if I fight, it will be worse for my son and my family. I know the truth, my son is in prison but I am hopeless and no one wants to help me. my son is suffering.

  2. A. Henderson

    Determine if your son is truly innocent…I mean 100% did-not-do-it type of innocence.
    After that evaluation, you must either support and encourage behavior changes and or fight for his innocence. Don’t feed into ANYONES NEGATIVE thoughts no matter who they are. This is YOUR son in prison/jail–not theirs. Ask for help and see organizations what will get you clear and true results… talk to every lawyer in your town and ask for references (especially pro bonos) to assist you. YOU CANNOT GIVE UP OVER WHAT ONE PERSON SAID….keep at it!

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