Jessica Sanders's disturbing documentary After Innocence (Special Jury Prize winner at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival) tackles a hot topic: prison inmates, some of them in jail for more than two decades, who are subsequently found to be wrongly convicted and released back into society with little or no support and, frequently, no compensation. The seven innocent men Sanders focuses on include a Rhode Island cop convicted of first-degree murder (he spent six years in jail); a Shreveport, Louisiana, husband and father who logged 22 years inside for a multiple rape he didn't commit; and North Carolinian Ronald Cotton, who served more than ten years of a life sentence on rape and burgarly convictions based on mistaken witness identification. Their stories are by turns touching, infuriating and liberating, and they are given even greater depth by interviews with defense attorneys who founded the Innocence Project (a non-profit legal clinic that focuses on post-conviction DNA testing); human-rights activist Dr. Lola Vollen; and former Illinois governor George Ryan, who incensed the right when he declared a moratorium on the death penalty in his state in 2002.
"DNA is God's signature," one long-incarcerated man declares. "And God doesn't lie."
After Innocence opens a one-week run at Starz FilmCenter on Friday, February 3. Starz is in the Tivoli Student Union, at 900 Auraria Parkway; for information, call 303-820-3456.
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