Burden of InnocenceFRONTLINE
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photo of a prisoner in cuffsJoin the Discussion: Share your reactions to the stories of these wrongly imprisoned men. What light do they shed on our criminal justice system?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was your story and I know about wrongful conviction first hand

I was jail for 2 year and I overturn my conviction and right

now I am filing a civil sue on my own. read my case Dushon Hampton v. U.S. No. 97-1782 oct 12,1999 or HAMPTON v. U.S. 191 F.3d at 703, this set case precedent when it come to restoring one civil right. what happen is that the court don't want to be accountable for their action. they do not want to give up their immunity Dushon Hampton

Dushon Hampton
Detroit, michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

I DONT KNOW WERE TO START, I SAW THE MEN

AND CRIED, BECAUSE I HAVE A SON IN PRISON HE

HAS BEEN IN FOR 23 YEAR'S AND HE IS INNOCENT.

MY SON IS A REAL MAN AND I KNOW THAT HE STAY S STRONG FOR ME,

IT HAS CHANGED OUR LIFES I BLACK IT OUT OF MY MIND

IN ORDER TO GO ON. BUT I RELLY NEVER CAN . BECAUSE

MY LIFE AND THE LIFE'S OF MY OTHER CHILDERN WERE

NEVER THE SAME. I WAS SO HAPPY FOR THE MEN THAT

WERE ABLE TO GO ON, AND SO SAD FOR THE ONE'S THAT COULDN'T

WHAT DO THEY MEAN WHEN THEY SAY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

MY SON HAD SO MANY IN HIS CASE, IT IS A LONG NIGHTMARE.

AND NOW I HAVE SPINAL STENOSIS. I LIVE IN FEAR THAT I MAY NEVER SEE MY SON COME HOME. I AM SORRY FOR GOING I THINK WITHOUGHT PEOPLE LIKE YOU, THE WORLD IS A SAD PLACE. PLEASE EXCUSE MY WRITING

GLORIA DE PIETRO
POMPANO BEACH , FLORIDA

Dear FRONTLINE,

On May 15th 1995, my life changed forever when my husband was falsley accused of rape. I never felt that he would found innocent due to the poor handling of the case by the police and the false testimony of the prosecuting attorney. I had read stories about the injustice due people of poverty and color when dealing with the judical system. I never knew of the depth that people in the justice system go to for the sake of winning a case. Truth, civil and constitutaional rights have no meaning when someone is accused of a crime who is considered to be of lesser value to our society.

My husband was poor, black and had a history of mental illness. His case went on for two and a half years before being dismissed by the judge after a mistrial was declared. His case and the aftermath of his being in jail for two years before going to trial has left an indeliable imprint on me that will forever change my life.

The men in the Frontline story deserve so much more than they were given. I know to some small degree what they had to endure. The experience strips away so much of a persons humanity that even after being freed they can no longer pick up their life from where it ended when they were incarcerated. No words I write can do them and others like them justice. It is such a profound experience.

It's been almost eight years since the night the police came to my home and took my husband away. Even though he was more fortunate than the men in the story, our lives are filled with such a profound sadness that is inexplainable. The experience seems to damage the soul. I hope some day that the men in the story and thousands like them will be able to find peace in their life. God Bless

Ann B.
Omaha, Nebraska

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a prisoners' rights advocate, i am very glad you did this show. However, it needs to be extended to all prisoners. Although i do not argue that there are those whose behavior warrants they be denied freedom for a period of time, what goes on in the prisons of this country is beyond even the lowest barbarian behavior. It does society no good to 'punish' 'criminals' by turning them into far worse people than they were before they were incarcerated.

With several other advocates, we are creating our own non-profit organization to address the problem of de-institutionalization in the hope we can help those who sincerely wish to create productive, law-abiding lives many do wish to do so do so. As your show presented, it will not be easy, we are up against not only the destruction of human souls but this society's incrediblely hateful attitude toward those it deems of no value.

Nancy Winters
Pittsburgh, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

It is difficult to bring suit against prosecutors and law enforcement, but do not give up. Team with another who is going through the same thing and stick with them. Make your stories and voices heard. I was wrongly prosecuted for crimes I did not committ and would like to hear from others like myself.

paul hale
ellenwood atlanta, georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

On April 24, 2002 I was wrongfully imprisoned in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the time, I was an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia. A vindictive girlfriend attempted to cripple my future with false accusations of abduction and assault. I was denied bond for twenty-nine days on the grounds that I was "a danger to myself and others", despite the fact that I was able to present nearly seven hundred e-mails and letters which discredited the allegations facing me in no uncertain terms. Eventually, I accepted a plea bargain despite my innocence, because it was the only way I could regain some semblance of freedom. I have learned that there is no freedom in a world where evidence is only worth the money you invest in its presentation. When I was finally released, I had to make a very difficult decision; I had to choose between using the money I had saved for the rest of my education on a civil suit to complete my exoneration or trying to build a new life somewhere else. I chose the latter, and I am currently living in New York while I try to prove to the admissions committee at Columbia University that I ammount to something more substantial than the sordid pack of lies which obscures my past and impedes my future. Am I deluding myself? My intelligence was presented by the Commonwealth Attourney as justification for my continued imprisonment, so what academic institution would be willing to look past the slanderous claims of the Charlottesville evening news to find a man crushed by the weight of false accusations? Your Frontline doccumentary hit a little too close to home. Hearing the stories of those who have suffered my fate and worse reopened wounds which have crippled me for more than a year. PBS and Frontline have rekindled a hope in my heart I thought to be long dead, and that hope is that one day justice will return to the American courtroom and eventually to the lives of those who have suffered at the hands of a truly corrupt system.

Scott Douglas
New York , NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

A very important program but I doubt it will penetrate the consciousness of the general public or disturb the consciences of politicians and legislators. The criminal "justice" system in this country operates for the benefit of lawyers, judges, police and those who run the prison systems. For these people crime truly pays. Justice, fairness and the truth are not the objectives of the system. One principal objective, other than to make money for the operatives, is to persecute blacks and humiliate them even further by making mostly blacks serve in the dehumanising prisons as guards. The treatment of prisoners, guilty or not, is aimed at humiliation, dehumanisation and punishment; there is no serious or effective attempt to rehabilitate or help. US prisons are hell just like those of the worst countries in the world; the US is not, as in so many social services, a leading civilised country of the world. It only knows how to bomb and destroy people.

Barrie Taylor
Miami, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for bringing Burden of Innocence. I often ask myself, where is the seperation between the "upstanding citizens" who will go to any lenth to convict, guilty or innocent, and call it justice, and those people who by our definition are criminals? Too often I can see no difference.

Ruth R Robinson
Tampa, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

The show didn't air in my city this evening, however, I would like to share my appreciation for Ms. Bikel continuing to do the work she does. I am working on a wrongful conviction case

WWW.FreeMayo.COM and it's not often that the public gets to see the truth of these cases.

Thank you

Erica Farris
Cincinnati, OH

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was reveting, insightful, provocative, and very troubling. These facts that police officers, investigators, and prosecutors will lie under oath and create false evidence to frame the innocent makes the term Criminal Justice seem like an oxymoron. Although I will probably not sleep well tonight because of it, thank you for another excellent report.

Clarke Poole
Sautee, GA

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was the most in depth program I've ever witnessed on any television program. While viewing the program, I began to think of the long hours I worked as a counselor for a workfurlough program in Long Beach Calif. Volunteers of Aamerica, a Non-Profit organization in which the California Dept. of Corrections contracts. The whole idea is to create a smooth transition of the inmates back into the community, and to bridge any gaps made to family and friends. The Inmates I worked with, have no idea of the blessings they were afforded in contrast to the lives of the men who were truly innocent. Your program," Burden of Innocence" truly cleared my mind of any guilt I held for not being succesful in convincing the inmates in the program to turn their lives around.

Theodore Leon
New Orleans, Louisisana

Dear FRONTLINE,

I wasn't lucky enough to have anyone take up my cause or case... As a result, I served just over 15 years before being paroled, and never was exonerated notwithstanding that it was, is, and always will be that I too was/am innocent of the charges.

I was 29 when locked up and in my mid-40's when released. My third decade of life was stolen from me. After successful parole, I have been "restored" according to the State.

I was locked up in Washington State, but paroled back home to Georgia. I am white, and I did have some emotional and financial support awaiting me back here in Georgia. I did one other thing that MOST men in prison don't--I saved every penny I could from the various $0.30/hr jobs and sent it out to be held for me. As a result, I suppose I have successfully "re-entered" society, but the emotional scars and the nightmares and the psychological trauma the interviewees on your program spoke of are very real for me. I get cold sweats when I see a police officer, I distrust almost everyone "in authority", I have no faith in the possibility of a meaningul relationship, and it seems I just go through the motions of day-to-day life.

And yes, there have been many times--a decent apartment, job, and fair amount of money in the bank notwithstanding--that I've felt it would be easier and even better if I was back in prison.

I didn't hear any of the men mention this term, but "institutionalization" is VERY real. Life is so easy when someone else is doing all the decision making for you when to wake, when to eat, when to sleep, etc.--when someone else is in total control and I just have to be there.

I could say so much more, and while your program did say much more, it left out the biggest conclusion--being locked up, having your life sucked dry for something you did not do--no one, NO ONE, can begin to fully understand unless you've been there.

Atlanta area, GA

 

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posted may 1, 2003

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