In the US today, for every nine executed, one is proven innocent; here are the stories of six wrongly convicted inmates. Exploring the theme of innocence on the death row, as well as how racial bias and politicisation of the court system continue to prevent fair trials and justice.
Blank and Jensen’s script is powered by an incredulous disbelief. The eleven performers, including professional actors, two lawyers and two exonerees, sit at microphones armed only with the words of their stories, a beautiful simplicity. Nothing more is needed to underline the tragicity of the situations. Between them, these six cases reveal a spectrum of the countless flaws in the U.S. justice system, and the terrifying reality of how easily a person can be falsely accused and convicted.
Kerry Max Cook, portrayed by Jamie Parker, was convicted on the basis of one old fingerprint, and was subjected to horrific sexual violence while in prison. Peter Pringle’s Gary Gauger was interrogated for 12 hours straight about the murder of his parents, and eventually had his words twisted by the police into a false confession. Delbert Tibbs, a sombre Chris Jarman, and Robert Hayes, portrayed by Tunde Okewale MBE, were guilty of nothing more than being black. Leslie Thomas QC’s David Keaton, was a frightened teenager, who confessed under duress to a crime he knew nothing about. And finally Sunny, played by the real Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs, who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In addition, it explores life after death row, and the harsh truth that being released from prison is far from the end of the story.
Emotions were high for both audience and cast during the performance and the Q&A that followed, in which several members of the cast spoke eloquently and passionately about issues surrounding the death penalty debate.
Above all, the play demonstrates why the work Amicus does is so improtant. The charity, founded 25 years ago in memory of Andrew Lee Jones, trains and sends British legal interns to help defence attorneys taking on death penalty cases in the USA, and has been crucial in countless victories. Without them, many more innocent lives would have been lost.
To find out more about the work of Amicus and future events, visit amicus-alj.org.
Playwrights: Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
Directors: Ellen Gould and Peter Gould
Cast: Jamie Parker, Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs, Charis Jarman, Leslie Thomas QC, Peter Pringle, Tunde Okrwale MBE, Danielle Walters, Angela Wynter, Lisa Eichhorn, Ian Porter, Anthony Cozens
Photo: Matt Cetti-Roberts/Frontline Pictures