Yet another movie


In 2001 a group of documentary filmmakers from New York started making a movie about men in Florida who had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment with a chance of parole in 1972 after the US Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment (they would reinstated it in 1976). While they were shooting, the Republican governor of Illinois, who had campaigned as a death penalty advocate, started to express concern over the use of the death penalty in his state, after the Chicago Tribune wrote a series of articles outlining a wide range of problems with the penalty, and several convicts were proven innocent by students in a college investigative journalism course whose professor had assigned their cases as class projects(!). The filmmakers decided to concentrate on following the story in Illinois, and recorded the events leading up to the historic January 2003 decision of Governor Ryan to pardon four men and commute the sentences of the state’s remaining 167 persons on death row, two days before his term expired. Both the Democratic & Republican candidates for governor in 2002 ran on a platform of maintaining the moratorium on executions which Ryan had earlier instated, and pledged to not execute any convicts until an exhaustive judicial review of the death penalty in theory & practice is completed. This well-made movie features extensive interviews with people associated with capital punishment for many reasons, including convicts, wardens, prosecutors, victim’s families, and politicians. Amazingly, after being spotted at Sundance, this documentary was also aired on NBC.