Making an Exoneree Premieres Documentaries on Wrongful Convictions
Georgetown students from the spring 2021 Making an Exoneree class showcased documentaries that tell the stories of five men who were wrongfully convicted and who have spent a combined 122 years in prison.
The short documentaries highlight the cases of Melvin Ortiz, Rodney Derrickson, Raymond Allan Warren, Charles Santana, and Arlando “Tray” Jones III, who remain incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.
“The starting point of this course is that we don’t just have to wait for the wheels of justice to turn,” said Marty Tankleff, who co-teaches the course each spring. “Instead, a group of energetic and determined undergraduate students can reinvestigate cases, expose injustice, and help get people out of prison.”
The 15 students spent months researching, producing their documentaries, and launching online campaigns to advocate for the freedom of their “clients.”
“I have waited 23 years to tell my side of the story and show I am innocent and I am not the person they claim me to be,” said Ortiz in a recorded video message to the event’s audience. “Making an Exoneree is an important program that gives us life, the air we need to breathe, and that can bring us home to our loved ones.”
Ortiz said that more importantly than its impact on his life is the program’s potential to bring change to the criminal legal system and prevent other wrongful convictions.
Since its start in 2018, Making an Exoneree has taken on 20 cases and has been involved in the release of three wrongfully convicted men: Valentino Dixon, Eric Riddick, and Keith Washington. Marc Howard, who co-teaches the course alongside Tankleff, said the team hopes there will be many more homecomings to celebrate.
“We took on some of the most difficult and challenging cases, where leads had vanished, where legal appeals seemed at a dead end, and where hope was just about lost,” he said. “We’re breathing new life into these cases.”
Making an Exoneree student Josiah Laney said Derrickson, his team’s “client,” taught him to not give up — even in the face of challenging moments, heartbreaking conversations, and steep odds against their case.
“I hope to give Rodney Derrickson an outlet to tell his story to a world that silenced him at the age of 17,” Laney said. “I hope to galvanize viewers to join the fight to bring Rodney home, and to remind our audience that together, they have the power to do something about the innocent men and women who do not deserve to spend another night in prison.”
Watch the 2021 Making an Exoneree documentaries:
Raymond Allan Warren
Arlando “Tray” Jones III
Watch a recording of the entire virtual event:
For more information on Making an Exoneree and to watch documentaries from previous years, visit makinganexoneree.com.