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After Innocence

After Innocence

Rated: No rating
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 15, 2005 Released by: New Yorker / Showtime Films

Jessica Sanders' documentary, expanding around the country, could be something that TV programs like "Dateline", "CSI", and "Law and Order" could benefit from. Yet, After Innocence is hardly positive about the U.S. criminal-justice system.

A small fraction ("more than 150") of the incarcerated have had their sentences overturned through DNA evidence and Sanders looks at seven men convicted of harsh crimes like murder and rape or a combination thereof. Following these unjustly imprisoned men may make viewers sympathetic as well as loathesome.

For those who complete a prison term and are released, the return to normalcy has the government assisting with health care, job training, and finding suitable living conditions. However, if one shouldn't have been jailed in the first place with the sentence reversed, then there happens to be no renumerations with the government acting like nothing shameful ever occurred. One still has to say that he or she has been convicted of a crime but not say yes after that to DNA evidence when filling out a job application.

In every case, the recovered DNA underwent testing not available when the crime was supposedly committed. All of the convicted were exonerated and the reactions are varied. Some obviously are bitter, but others have more of a philosophical take on the life-changing experience. These personal anecdotes have a kind of sameness to them that gives the documentary a rambling nature with the filmmakers having definite views on the legal system and capital punishment.

There are men out there like Dennis Maher of Lowell, Massachusetts trying to start a new life, a romantic one by logging on the Internet using an id of DNA Dennis.

Sanders' most compelling person is Cocoa Beach, Florida's Wilton Dedge. At the beginning of After Innocence, he's been in a Florida prison for nearly 23 years, and has been proven innocent for three. But, he can't get out as throughout there is the testing of evidence and the struggle of appeals and reopening the case. Prosecution is keyed on circumstantial evidence that confirms Dedge's guilt, not the possibility of something like DNA. And, by the way, he was convicted by a jury?

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After Innocence       B       B

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