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Blind Injustice

Synopsis

The story cuts between four cases. First is Nancy Smith, a Head Start bus driver from Lorain, who was accused of molesting the children she drove. Despite a complete lack of evidence, Nancy was convicted on coached testimony. The East Cleveland 3—Laurese Glover, Eugene Johnson, and Derrick Wheatt—were driving in their neighborhood when they witnessed one man shoot another. Their convictions were based on a teenager’s shaky testimony and discredited forensic evidence. A group of scientists blithely extol the wonder of forensics. Forensic details of the rape and murder of Judith Johnson and the rape of her young granddaughter are presented. Clarence Elkins, Johnson’s son-in-law, was arrested for those crimes, despite an alibi and the absence of his DNA at the crime scene. The only evidence was his traumatized niece saying her attacker resembled Clarence. Lastly, Rickey Jackson, along with two friends, was falsely identified in a murder by a boy who made up the story, and was later forced to stick to that story by the police. Rickey was sent to death row; the sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

Each exoneree describes life behind bars. Clarence recalls a panic attack. Laurese describes life in solitary confinement. Nancy prays passionately to God for strength. Eugene gets a taste of freedom, but has a nightmarish return. Derrick and his mother remain hopeful and dream of release. While incarcerated, each person finds activities to pass the years and maintain their dignity. Some read, some paint, some pray. The Ohio Innocence Project gets involved and uncovers cracks in the cases. Clarence even helps to secure the evidence to free himself. The Prosecutor refuses to accept such miscarriages of justice. The Defense Attorney and Alesha confront him. Nancy, Rickey, Clarence, and the East Cleveland 3 join in, urging the Prosecutor to see the truth. Breaking down, the Prosecutor shouts, “If I can’t do my job, then no one in this room is safe!” Each wrongfully convicted person tells the story of their exoneration. They reunite and learn how each is getting on in life. Suddenly, the Defense Attorney and Alesha receive bad news about another client: The judge is blocking evidence on a death-penalty case. But they’ll keep fighting. In the finale, everyone asks: What makes a person strong enough to endure being wrongfully convicted? The Prosecutor wonders if he can live with doubt. One thing is certain: These six exonerees can finally declare, “I am free!”