Oudon Panyanouvong, now 34, is serving a 40-year sentence for a crime he says he did not commit but pled guilty to because he did not understand his rights as a teenager during a police interrogation in 1998. Tennessee law does not require a parent, guardian or attorney be present during the interrogation of juveniles. Oudon surprises family friend Rev. Dr. Diana DeWitt, who gives him spiritual advice when he tells her never committed the murder he is imprisoned for. A new law proposed in Tennessee would give juveniles with long sentences like Oudon an opportunity for an early release. Ultimately this is the story of redemption, rehabilitation, and hope.
This series is part of Independent Lens‘s commitment to fostering collaboration between filmmakers and journalists. “Sentencing Children” was originally published by The Tennessean newspaper.