Unlike some people who have reviewed this title, I found nothing surprising about "The Exonerated." It's an indictment against the death penalty and also for our justice system. In light of some recent jury verdicts, it does seem that there are a few things very goofed up in our system, which is supposed to be the greatest. If it is the greatest, that's pretty sad.
Exonerated tells the stories of six innocent people who received the death penalty. The dialogue comes from the words of the real-life accused. The characters are played by: Brian Dennehy, Susan Sarandon, Aiden Quinn, Danny Glover, Delroy Lindo, with peripheral characters played by Bobby Cannavale, Dennis Burkley, and Chris Bauer, among others. Directed by Bob Balaban, the material was originally a play.
The shocking thing here is, after these people were exonerated, how long it took them to be released. And to think, these are the stories of six people - how many more people have stories like this, and how many died on death row, despite their innocence. It's a staggering thought, and their stories are compelling and sad, stories of wasted years and frustration.
One of the major problems is that many of these people were interrogated for hours and hours and did not ask for a lawyer. And the police are something else in regard to this civil right - if a person asks for an attorney in order to avoid interrogation for hours upon hours, it's assumed he or she is guilty. The public assumes it (well why would you need a lawyer if you didn't have anything to hide?) and the police assume it. First of all, when the police say 'anything you say can and will be used against you,' they mean it. If you talk without an attorney, your words will be twisted to convict you. Secondly, why would someone want to be interrogated for 16 hours or until they are so beaten down and exhausted that they confess?
At the end of the film, we are introduced to the real people. Human beings, victims of police in a hurry to make a case, bad lawyering or no lawyering, bad juries, or being the wrong color. It's a sobering thought.
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