Monday, 30 June 2008

Innocence Behind Bars

By Richard Kamins on June 16, 2008 2:56 PM

Connecticut Heritage Productions, the Middletown-based theater troupe, has never shied away from timely topics and challenging material. The aim is not only to entertain but also to make audiences think.

Over the next 2 weekends (June 19 - 28), CHP presents "The Exonerated" , the 2002 play created by the team of Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with people who had been imprisoned on false charges and then "exonerated", the play looks at 6 individuals who spent time on Death Row (one person over 20 years.)

Saved either by a lawyer working pro bono or by idealistic law students, each person was poor, went through hellacious trials and all were convicted on faulty evidence.

Surprisingly considering the subject matter, there is much humor during the course of the play and one leaves the theater satisfied that justice has been done. But, the points that the play makes shows us that the Justice system can be flawed and, worse, skewed against poor people.

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sundays June 22 and 29 and take place in the Green Street Arts Center in Middletown. The play, directed by Michael Eck, has a cast of 10. For ticket information, call 860-347-7771.

On Opening Night, James Tillman (pictured above), who served over 18 years on charges of sexual assault and freed on the discovery of DNA evidence, will speak after the show. Joining him will be his attorneys Gerard Smyth and Karen Goodrow, Director of the Connecticut Innocence Project. Michael Lefebvre, an attorney with the CIP, will also speak - as a police officer, Lefebvre was falsely accused of a crime and arrested but was acquitted in a jury trial.

Program note: Michael Eck will be my guest this Wednesday on "Best of the Valley-Shore", heard at 12:30 p.m. (and rebroadcast at 6:30 the same day) on WMRD-AM 1150 Middletown and WLIS-1420 AM Old Saybrook.

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