Why Books and Movies about Innocent People are Important
By Hans Sherrer
By shining the light of publicity on real-life cases of wrongful conviction,
Justice: Denied is contributing to chronicling how regularly that injustice
occurs in state and federal courts nationwide.
However, even though documenting law enforcement travesties and bearing
witness to their human impact is important, the audience attracted to
Justice: Denied magazine and web site is limited. On the other hand,
millions of people who are unaware of Justice: Denied are exposed in books
and movies to stories of innocent people wrongly accused, and treated by
police, prosecutors, judges and jailers as being guilty of a crime.
Those stories can have a powerful impact on a reader or viewer whether they
are based on a true story or a factually based work of fiction. Snow Falling
on Cedars and Brokedown Palace, for example, are fictional stories just as
compelling as The Hurricane, In the Name of the Father, and other movies
based on an actual case of a wrongful conviction. To varying degrees, they
all aid in publicizing both the mechanics of how wrongful convictions are
generated with clockwork like regularity, and the bureaucratic and political
reasons underlying why they have occurred for centuries.
Therefore, the work of Justice: Denied is complemented by books and
movies relating stories of innocent people. Furthermore, the writers,
publishers, producers and distributors willing to gamble time, money and
energy on the commercial success of such projects will continue to do so if
their effort is rewarded by enough readers and viewers.
One way people interested in publicizing the plight of the wrongly prosecuted
can do so, is to request their local public and college libraries to purchase
books and videos of movies reviewed or mentioned in Justice: Denied. There
are over 20,000 libraries in the United States patronized by millions of
people. Some of those libraries are now checking out more videos than books.
All libraries have a budget for the purchase of new items and the
suggestions of patrons provides valuable input on how that money is spent. Of
course, the same is true of magazine subscription, and there may be libraries
that will subscribe to Justice: Denied if the suggestion is made to them.
There is a bibliography of over a dozen non-fiction books related to wrongful
convictions available to read at:
http://www.justicedenied.org/bibliography/bibliography.htm. It was also
available in the hard copy on pages 38 and 39 of the August 2000 (Volume 2
Issue 1) of Justice Denied. The following is a compilation of some of the
films relating true-life and fictional stories of innocent people wrongly
accused of committing crimes. Several have been reviewed in Justice Denied
and they should all be available on videocassette.
Films based on real cases of innocent people:
"In the Blink of an Eye" (1996) Starring Mimi Rogers and Veronica Hamel
"Indictment: The McMartin Trial" (1995) Starring James Woods and Mercedes Rule
"In the Name of the Father" (1993) Starring Daniel Day Lewis and Emma Thompson
"True Believer" (1989) Starring James Woods and Robert Downey Jr.
"A Cry in the Dark" (1988) Starring Meryl Streep
"The Wrong Man" (1956) Starring Henry Fonda and Vera Miles. Directed by
"Call Northside 777" (1948) Starring James Stewart, Richard Conte and Lee J.
"The Ox-Box Incident" (1943) Starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn
Fictional films of innocent people wrongfully accused of a crime:
"A Map of the World" (1999) Starring Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore
"Brokedown Palace" (1999) Starring Kate Beckinsale and Lou Diamond Phillips
"Life" (2000) Starring Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy
"Snow Falling on Cedars" (1998) Starring Ethan Hawke, Max von Sydow and Sam
"The Fugitive"(1993) TV series (1964-1966) Movie starred Harrison
Ford. TV series starred David Janssen. Inspired by the case of Dr. Sam
Sheppard's wrongful conviction of murdering his wife in 1954.
"Presumed Innocent" (1990) Starring Harrison Ford
"An Innocent Man" (1989) Starring Tom Selleck
"American Gigolo" (1980) Starring Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton
"...And Justice For All" (1979) Starring Al Pacino
"12 Angry Men" (1957) Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, et al.