After Innocence (2005)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Law & Crime, Social Issues  |   Release Date - Oct 21, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Over the last 20 years, wrongly imprisoned inmates exonerated by DNA evidence have become the poster children for the failings of the legal system -- "failings" not because the mistakes were made in the first place, but because they were corrected only with great slowness, resistance and stubbornness. What's particularly cruel, as revealed in the eye-opening documentary After Innocence, is how these men are often brushed under the rug like embarrassments, without the expunged records they'd need to fully rejoin society -- or in some cases, even detained in prison beyond the point that science has absolved them. Director Jessica Sanders takes a sober, straightforward, no-frills approach to this material. If the men interviewed move us, it's not because Sanders has used any technique to manipulate that reaction. Rather, it's because they tell stories that are not only frustrating and compelling, but universally relatable, since any person might be falsely accused. While the interview subjects sometimes blend together, in a staggering blur of years mistakenly served, one case in particular stands out: Wilton Dedge, still imprisoned in Florida at the time of filming, even three years after DNA cleared him of a rape committed two decades earlier. If After Innocence incites our disgust at these prosecutors' blind and relentless measures for saving face, it also lionizes the attorneys and volunteers involved with Barry Scheck's Innocence Project, whose tireless work has made the eventual releases possible. One attorney describes it as a deal he could not refuse: hours and hours of work without pay, with only the promise that there would be more hours of work without pay if he were successful. The occasional exoneree who does find a life to salvage, such as the gruffly proud Bostonian Dennis Maher, validates all this work -- both by the Innocence Project and by director Sanders.