Friday, December 13, 2013

AIFF 2013: One.For.Ten - DNA, The Instant Replay For The Justice System

The highlight of the film festival for me so far was Thursday night at Loussac Library.

The showing was the most innovative and powerful I've seen.

The film maker, Will Francome (and his colleagues), as he explained it, determined to take a cross country trip in the US to interview people who had been exonerated of capital offenses and been released from death row.

But they jumped onto Facebook and Twitter to include their audience in developing questions for the people they were going to interview.  They made their film, edited it quickly, and put it online for their FB and Twitter team to see within 24 hours.

And the 'showing' Thursday included a panel of three local leaders in the fight for justice for innocent people convicted of crime.  There were ten short interviews.  One or two were shown.  Then the audience was invited to ask questions or comment.  The panel commented.  Then the next couple of films were shown.

WOW!  The audience was included in making the films and in the showing.  This takes AIFF into new film territory - making the audience participants, not simply passive viewers of the films.  I know people will immediately, and legitimately respond that the festival has had Q&A with film makers from the beginning.

But this was more than that.  At One.For.Ten  the audience was involved from the beginning.  Live audience reaction was part of the film experience.

And if all that weren't enough, the topic - innocent people on death row - is as powerful as you can get.

Most of you missed this.  I didn't know what I was going to experience before I went.  But, you can see the ten films and join into the social media discussions.  The films are at the One.For.Ten website.

These stories are so compelling because they challenge the very basis of our justice system.  I had so many thoughts jumping through my head.

Clearly DNA can change the court's call, just as instant replay can change a sports call.  But saving an innocent man or woman wrongly convicted is far more significant than changing a referee's call.  But like instant replay, it's the kind of objective evidence, that breaks through most human error. (And I'm sure there are ways to incorrectly collect, test, and interpret DNA evidence.)

I asked about the reactions of prosecutors, and, unfortunately, the answers suggested they react badly.  They deny they were wrong.  And, as the blogger at What Do I Know?, I'm fascinated by how people 'know' what they 'know'.  And how they simply cannot see 'truths' that conflict with their own well being.  I know that prosecutors dismiss the claims of innocence of inmates.  Every inmate has found a way to believe he's innocent.  (And I believe that many extremely guilty folks believe they're innocent, making it harder for people who really are innocent.)  The irony is that while prosecutors can see these people deceive themselves, apparently they can't see it when they themselves fall for the same delusion.

So much to think about.  They discussed about ten different reasons/causes for people to be falsely convicted and each of the ten films is supposed to highlight one.  (Though most involve several.)  Some were;
  • wrong eyewitnesses
  • snitch testimony -  informants lying for their own benefit
  • wrong expert witnesses
  • racism
  • prosecutorial misconduct
  • perjury and false testimony
  • false confession
It seems to me, short of banning the death sentence, anyone convicted without concrete evidence based on things like eyewitness testimony or snitch testimony and probably other conditions, should not be sentenced to anything more than life.

By the way, one for ten refers to stats that there is one exonerated convict for every ten executed.  

Did I tell you I liked this session? 

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