Empowering Death Row Exonerees To Tell Their Stories

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Ray Krone was wrongly convicted and sentenced to die because of an expert witness on bite mark evidence. Despite the fact that Ray had an alibi, and that the other evidence at the crime scene did not point to him, the jury was swayed by this so-called expert.

What the jury did not know, however, was that the prosecution paid this expert around $50,000, ten times the total amount Ray had to defend himself. He spent 10 years in prison before his conviction was finally overturned.


Best Death Penalty Movie? You Decide

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paradise lost 3It’s Oscar season.  And that’s great, because I like movies.  I’m not a buff or anything, which is why I wrote “movies” and not “film” or “cinema”.  But I enjoy a good flick.  As someone who campaigns for death penalty abolition, I’m especially interested this year because there is a death penalty film, Paradise Lost 3, nominated for Best Documentary.

Movies can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about an issue, or even inspiring people to take action.  In our death penalty abolition work, we have tried to promote movies we think will do that.

But what do we know?


Former Prisoner of Conscience Releases Film, Tibet in Song

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Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan entho-musicologist and Fulbright Scholar, set out to make a film about traditional Tibetan music and dance. A year later, he was wrongly convicted of “espionage and counter-revolutionary activities.”  China announced that he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. The trial was closed, and no evidence has ever been made public.

Ngawang Choephel was held in Powo Tramo prison and was reported to be in poor health, suffering from ”bronchitis, hepatitis and respiratory infections”.

Choephel’s conviction and imprisonment spurred an outcry from human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International. Many wrote letters pleading for his release as Amnesty considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.

These efforts paid off at last in January 2002, when Choephel was granted his freedom, after serving more than six years in Chinese prisons. “You just can’t believe he got out,” said Kate Lazarus, Amnesty’s Tibet specialist, who met Choephel soon after his arrival. “You dream and you hope that these people will be released, but you never know.”

At the time of his detention he had been gathering material for the production of a documentary film about traditional Tibetan performing arts.

Tibet in Song opens September 24, 2010

The documentary he was working on prior to his arrest in China is finally being released in the U.S. on September 24thTibet in Song is a feature length documentary that celebrates traditional Tibetan folk music and encompasses a harrowing journey into the past fifty years of cultural repression inside Chinese controlled Tibet.

Director and former Tibetan political prisoner, Ngawang Choephel, weaves a story of beauty, pain, brutality and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film.  Ngawang Choephel sets the stage for a unique exploration of the Chinese impact on Tibetans inside Tibet.