DVD Documents Plight of the Guilty till Proven Innocent
This revealing documentary is essentially ten different stories, each a tragic case of mistaken identity and a rush to judgment. For all of the men profiled here can thank their lucky stars that evidence was preserved, otherwise they’d still be in jail. For example, Herman Atkins had been sentenced to 45 years for rape and robbery despite having an alibi and no previous criminal record. In the film, his father, a cop, admits that he now regrets never visiting his son even once during his 11-year incarceration, explaining that, as an officer of the law, he had believed in the justice system.
Another of the unfortunate subjects, Scott Hornoff, was a police officer when he found himself arrested for murder. Although he sat on Death Row for over six years till his conviction was overturned, the State of Rhode Island still refuses to pay him any damages or back pay. A common theme running through each of the frightening tales told here is that none of the victims have been compensated for the ordeals they had to endure.
Without money to get back on their feet, they presently find themselves ill-equipped to cope in a world which has moved on without them. We also see the toll that the time in jail has exacted on their families, from wives having to work and to raise children alone to kids feeling alienated to relatives not living long enough to see a son’s name cleared before they passed on.
One mother wonders why the jury had so callously dismissed her passionate testimony, under oath, that her son had been with her at the time that the crime had been committed. Meanwhile, one false accuser contritely tries to explain away her regrettable mistake of identifying the wrong man as her rapist.
By shining a scientific spotlight on the criminal justice system’s dirty little secret, After Innocence leaves no doubt that thousands of other wrongly-imprisoned persons must currently be rotting away behind bars, with only the ability to afford a Dream Team of DNA experts standing between them and their freedom.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
Distributor: New Yorker Video
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, bonus footage, updates, interviews, Pearl Jam performance, media coverage, footage from the Sundance and theatrical premieres, MTV and Larry King Live coverage, website and contact info, and a theatrical trailer.