Burden of Innocence
homeprofilesafter the camerasfaqsdiscussionwatch online

FRONTLINE's interviews with legal experts, psychologists, and a former prison warden about the exonerated and the legal, financial, and emotional difficulties they face once they are freed.

Bernhard, an expert on compensation for the wrongfully convicted, is a professor at Pace University's Law School in White Plains, N.Y. Here, she discusses the history of compensation law, why state legislatures often resist passing compensation bills, and how she thinks society perceives as "contaminated" those people who have been in prison -- no matter how definitive the evidence proving their innocence.
Cowley, who was a warden with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for 20 years, is now chief of operations for Institutional Programs Inc., a consulting firm for corrections and criminal justice issues. In this interview with FRONTLINE, Cowley talks about prisons' violent and depraved conditions, how he coped with them and his own sense of complicity, and what can be done to help the exonerated.
Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Santa Cruz, is an expert on the psychological effects of incarceration and wrongful convictions. Here, he discusses the ways in which prison life affects individuals, and how that experience is profoundly different for an innocent person behind bars.
Neufeld, with Barry Scheck, founded The Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. He discusses the difficulty of filing a civil suit on behalf of exonerated individuals -- even in cases with documented police or prosecutorial misconduct -- and why the system has been so resistant to change.
Ritter is Frederick Daye's attorney. He has appealed to the California Board of Compensation on his client's behalf, asking for $100 for every day Daye spent in prison. In this interview with FRONTLINE, Ritter talks about Daye's tortuous journey through the criminal justice system, how he felt when a jury refused to award Daye any compensation, and his client's difficult situation today.
Scheck is a professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, and co-director of the school's Innocence Project. The Innocence Project has helped exonerate dozens of inmates using DNA testing. Scheck is also co-author of Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted (2000). In this interview with FRONTLINE, Scheck talks about why it's so difficult for exonerated individuals to get compensation and his befuddlement over such resistance, and why he thinks most wrongful convictions aren't simply matters of "honest mistakes."
Wilson, a professor of psychology at Cleveland State University, testified about the psychological effects of wrongful imprisonment on behalf of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz at their civil trial. Here, Wilson discusses the two men's mental anguish and how the years in prison irrevocably and drastically changed them, and about how the exonerated are often unable to enjoy freedom once they're finally released.


home » introduction » closer look » after the cameras » faqs » the innocents
interviews » discussion » interview with ofra bikel » producer's chat
tapes & transcripts » press reaction » credits » privacy policy
FRONTLINE » wgbh » pbsi

published may 1, 2003

photograph copyright © ed kashi/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation