Hollywood rarely invests big money in movies about injustice. That is what makes Conviction so extraordinary. Fox Searchlight Pictures tapped top notch talents Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Minnie Driver to portray the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Swank), a high school dropout who worked as a single mother while putting herself through law school so she could represent her brother (Rockwell) and try to overturn his unjust murder conviction.
The Oscar “buzz” has already begun for this inspiring depiction of Waters’ 18 year struggle against the injustice suffered by her brother. The subject of wrongful convictions is sadly a timely topic. Since 1989, 259 inmates have been exonerated because of DNA; 17 of those exonorees were on death row. For each of those people unjustly convicted there is another person who was guilty who still walks free and continues to pose a threat to all of us. The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 113 of the DNA exoneration cases.
Just last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Henry Skinner, a Texas death row inmate who is requesting DNA tests on blood, fingernail scrapings and hair found at the scene where his girlfriend and her two sons were murdered in 1993. In March, less than an hour before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution to consider taking up the matter of the untested evidence. While the outcome may hinge on procedural formalities, the core of the case involves the significant issue of whether prosecutors should be able to selectively test some DNA evidence but not all in a capital murder case. If the government is seeking the truth about who committed a crime, shouldn’t all the evidence be tested?
Such instances of injustice need to be discussed. That is why Conviction is such a blessing. Not only is it great entertainment, it is also a good jumping off point for discussions. I hope that you will go to see this excellent movie. Then, take advantage of all the Oscar hype and use the movie as an opening to discuss the injustice of imprisoning innocent people. There are reasonable procedural safeguards that would substantially reduce these false convictions, and the Church has an obligation to work for those reforms. Encourage your friends to join Justice Fellowship’s work to reform the system that allows such injustices to occur.
“Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.” Exodus 23:7
In His service,
Justice Fellowship’s Protecting the Innocent resource page
Justice eReport: “Protecting the Innocent”
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Justice Fellowship is the criminal justice reform arm of Prison Fellowship.