I went to the film Conviction last week. It was about a man wrongly convicted of murder who spent 18 years in prison for the offence committed by someone else.

I think we have all been accused at one time or another of doing something we haven’t. It is a particularly galling experience when for example you are not believed. And at school I think probably most people were at one time or another punished for something they hadn’t done.  But on the whole there are no real consequences when this occurs. Spending time in prison, particularly as long as 18 years is something else.

The film itself is pretty much fact although there are some deviations from the truth for (I suppose) dramatic effect. It concerns the case of Kenny Waters who was wrongly convicted of murdering his neighbour, in spite of the fact that he had a cast iron alibi. At the time of the murder, he was in court answering a charge of assaulting a police officer. He was exonerated from the murder but 2 years later, after some of the witnesses had been turned he was convicted of the murder & sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. He had as a child broken into the woman’s house & his blood group did match that of the perpetrator. He was undoubtedly a man with a bad character. This was before the days of DNA evidence.

He was in prison for 18 years. His sister who believed in him qualified as a lawyer, what Americans call an attorney, while working in a bar. Then hunted down the evidence which contained inter alia the knife that was used to commit this horrific murder. The DNA was duly found not to match his. With the help of Barry Scheck & the Innocence Project he was duly released.

I have read on the internet that the people of the town where he came from still didn’t believe he was innocent. I suppose the God fearing people of the town he came for don’t when it suits them choose to believe in DNA or something or when it suits them not to believe any science in general, evolution & the big bang in particular. They asked the question well if he didn’t do it, who did? And they talked about a retrial. It is a good question, who did do it? Have the police made a serious attempt to find the real perpetrator. Much can be deduced from DNA evidence, family & race for example. It is similar to other cases, notably in the UK the Stefan Kiszko / Lesley Anne Downey case when eventually the real perpetrator was found. Before DNA, pressure on the police to find the culprit was so great that miscarriages of justice were rife.

And then six months after Kenny Walters died from an accident after he had fallen from a ladder. I assume that after such long incarceration he had forgotten that he wasn’t young anymore.  If he had lived on, there would have been some who would have continued to believe he was not innocent.

The film itself is truly wonderful. I was crying through most of it. I gather that Betty Anne Waters the sister of Kenny Waters thought the acting was so good that at times she thought it actually was her. Indeed it was the characterisation of Betty Anne Waters by Hilary Swank which was the strongest point of the film.

Betty Anne Waters was portrayed in the film as missing college through depression & failing her exams twice before finally qualifying as a lawyer. neither of which is true. But she herself is ok about this misrepresentation. Her attitude to the tragic accident, her brother dying after falling from a ladder is that at least he died a free man. But she didn’t work as a lawyer again. She still works in a bar & is a volunteer with the Innocence project. Her life has a new meaning.

This is the link for the Innocence Project

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