In July 2014, POV asked 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza what’s happened in Kenneth’s case since the cameras stopped rolling.
POV: What is the current status of Kenneth Young’s resentencing appeal?
Nadine Pequeneza: [Paolo] Annino (Kenneth’s lead attorney) is currently appealing Kenneth’s 30-year sentence, arguing that the resentencing judge did not consider Kenneth’s rehabilitation. In 2013 the Florida courts denied his appeal. Kenneth is now waiting to see if the federal court will hear his case.
When was the last time you corresponded with Kenneth?
The last news I had of Kenneth was in July and it came through his lawyer. Paolo Annino’s office had arranged a conference call with Kenneth to go over matters pertaining to his appeal. They told me he was despondent and depressed. He was particularly upset because his mother did not come to visit him on his birthday this year. In the three years since Kenneth’s resentencing, I’ve felt his spirit rise and fall several times. It’s hard to imagine how people incarcerated at such a young age are able to cope with watching their lives slip away. One inmate I met likened it to being buried alive.
Have there been any changes in the law since the film was completed?
Since we completed filming the U.S. Supreme Court released the Miller decision in June 2012, which bans mandatory life without parole for children. Since then, six states have abolished life without parole for children, and five other states have limited its use. Twenty-nine states currently have legislative reforms underway to ensure that juveniles facing life sentences as well as multi-decade sentences have a meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity. In West Virginia and Delaware this means a parole review after 15 years of incarceration. 15 to Life‘s outreach and engagement campaign is focused on using the film to help raise awareness about the issue of excessive punishment of children in communities that are rethinking their approach to juvenile justice. So far we have screenings planned in Florida, Maryland and Colorado. If you’d like to know more you can join our newsletter here.
Has Kenneth’s mother Stephanie seen the film? What was her reaction?
In April, I flew to Tampa to screen the film with Kenneth’s mom. Stephanie was very emotional watching the film. She cried and put her hand to the screen when Kenneth spoke about their relationship. Even though the film was difficult for her to watch she thanked me, and my crew Stephan and Paul, for making it. Everyone who has seen the film has been touched by Kenneth’s story. Like Stephanie, they are sad. Many are angry. Several have asked what they can do. If you’re angry about what’s happening to Kenneth, and the more than 2,500 children like him, there are many organizations working to end the extreme punishment of juveniles. The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth can put you in touch with organizations in your area.
What are you working on next?
My next film is on gun culture in Canada. Right now, Canada is the only country in the world repealing gun control laws, and looking toward the United States as a model. Since the abolition of the long-gun registry, gun sales are up, gun clubs are booming, and a once silent minority is on the offensive. With an estimated 10 million legal and illegal guns, Canada ranks 13th among gun-toting nations. This film will immerse viewers in Canada’s evolving gun culture, to explore the question at the heart of the gun control debate — do more guns equal more gun violence?
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