“I think the best thing that a lawyer can do with their license is get an innocent guy out of prison,” lawyer Ellen Eggers says in the trailer for Netflix’s The Innocence Files, a new docuseries focused on just that: the exoneration of the wrongfully imprisoned.
Executive-produced and directed by Academy Award nominee Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?), Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence) — with episodes also directed by Academy Award nominee Jed Rothstein (Killing in the Name), Emmy Award winner Andy Grieve (Stand Up to Cancer) and Sarah Dowland — the series follows eight wrongly accused inmates, some of them represented by the nonprofit organization the Innocence Project. Since their inception in 1992, the Innocence Project — founded by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law — have used DNA evidence to exonerate prisoners.
The series is organized into three parts: The Evidence, The Witness and The Prosecution. “These stories expose difficult truths about the state of America’s deeply flawed criminal justice system while showing when the innocent are convicted, it is not just one life that is irreparably damaged forever: Families, victims of crime, and trust in the system are also broken in the process,” a release reads.
Among the eight men in the series is Levon Brooks, who we first meet in episode one when he is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a 3-year-old girl in Mississippi in the early Nineties. He’s sentenced to life in prison on the strength of bite marks on the girl that seemingly match his, but he has a strong alibi. Soon after his trial, yet another girl from the same town is found murdered in a similar fashion — opening up the possibility he could prove they had the wrong man. Further episodes intersect with Brooks’ plight as unreliable evidence and bad science send more and more innocent people behind bars.
As the series shows, these men are examples of those who’ve been wrongfully accused — but they’re just a few of many. “We get flooded with letters from all over the country,” Neufeld says in the trailer. “They’re human beings who are claiming to be wrongly convicted.”
“We realized that there were so many things wrong with this system,” Scheck adds. “So we started the Innocence Project.”
The nine-part series drops April 15th on Netflix.