Crown Heights Screening Sheds Light On Unjust Criminal Convictions
By Christina Acevedo
The Newkirk Center for Science and Society hosted a screening of the 2017 film Crown Heights at Humanities Gateway on Oct. 17, initiating a series of film screenings centered around the topic of wrongful convictions.
These viewings are being done as part of UCI’s National Registry of Exonerations program. The movie, which was inspired by actual events, portrays the story of Colin Warner, who struggled to find justice after he was falsely sentenced for murder.
Simon A. Cole, the director of the Newkirk Center for Science and Society, hoped the film would shed light on racism and unjust convictions. Similarly, Janet Wilson, the center’s special projects director, expressed hope that it would deepen students’ understanding of the nature of such convictions.
“There’s…incredibly smart, talented kids in these poor neighborhoods who unfortunately aren’t getting the same opportunities and unfortunately are often on the receiving end of injustice,” Wilson said. “Hopefully students on campus and general audiences everywhere will understand a little better what goes on in some areas.”
According to the website for the National Registry of Exonerations, the registry’s purpose is to share knowledge about cases in which individuals were falsely convicted in order to reduce the chances that these types of events happen again.
One aspect of the movie that Wilson elaborated on was the complexity behind the protagonist’s situation. Wilson depicts Warner’s innocence without ignoring the fact that Warner did partake in car theft. “We’re all complicated…It’s not like there are angels and there are terrible, terrible people,” Wilson said. “The young man in this movie was stealing cars when he was working at a garage. He wasn’t perfect, and yet he ended up being wrongly convicted of murder.”
After the film, the director, Matt Ruskin, held a short question and answer panel. He explained to audiences that the idea for the film came about after he learned about the real incident through the podcast, “This American Life.”
The Newkirk Center has been in collaboration with the exoneration project for two years, featuring events that elaborate on this situation. The center’s next film showing is expected to occur next quarter and feature the movie, Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four.
Editors Update: A previous version of this story said,
The Humanities Gateway hosted a screening of the 2017 film Crown Heights at the Newkirk Center for Science and Society
The Newkirk Center has been in collaboration with the exoneration project for two years, featuring film that elaborates on this situation.