"True Conviction"

"True Conviction”: three men, themselves wrongfully convicted, form a detective agency in Dallas to help others wrongfully incarcerated

Monday August 30, PBS Independent Lens aired “True Conviction”, directed by James Metlzer.

This documentary tells the story of three men who had spent years in prison and then were exonerated, and then collaborated to form a detective agency in Dallas, to help other clients whom they believe are wrongfully incarcerated in Texas.

The three men are Christopher Scott, Johnny Lindsey (both African-American) and Steven Phillips (white).  The (additional) two convicts that become the focus of their work in the film are Max Soffar (white), in prison for 35 years and on death row much of that time, and Isaiah Hill (black), sentenced to life in prison for aggravate assault.  Max seemed to be coerced into a false confession, and the film makes the point that false confessions typically occur after at least six hour of intensive interrogation by police. Who refused a plea bargain.

Scott has formed a House of Renewed Hope as a halfway house for inmates leaving prison.

The film shows much of the backstory of the arrests of the three detectives and two subjects in effective black-and-white animation.

The film makes the point that false confessions and convictions in Texas are often obtained without much physical evidence; in the past, based on eyewitnesses.  That may be changing with DNA. One of Isaiah’s jurors is interviewed in the film.

Despite the fact that some of the victims of false conviction in the film are white, the film makes the point that black Americans are disproportionately incarcerated unjustly.

I was foreman of a jury in 1982 in Dallas when I lived there, and we convicted someone of a weapon’s charge after two days.  The judge probably recognized me from having sat in the courtroom and watched a bench trial in 1980 where police had entered a gay bar and falsely accused someone of public lewdness, a problem at the time when judges were all too willing to accept a police officer’s claims at face value.  Judges are elected in Texas, and that can subject them to political populism.

The use of a genealogy database from a small open-source startup run out of a private home in Florida (GEDMatch) to catch the Golden State killer after more than three decades, could revolutionize evidence in criminal cases. Here is the ABC story on significance to privacy.

This film is similar in purpose to some work by Andrew Jenks (whose work shows that this problem is by no means just racial).

Picture from Huntsville TX prison, transfer facility, wiki.

Name:  “True Conviction”

Director, writer:  James Meltzer

Released:  2017

Format:  1.85:1

When and how viewed:  PBS Independent Lens, 2018/4/30

Length:  84

Rating: NA

Companies:  PBS Independent Lens, Filament Productions

Link:  official

Stars:  ****-

(Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 10:30 AM EDT)