After Death Row

Article excerpt


According to the Innocence Project, 300 people have been released from prison thanks to DNA evidence, including 18 death row inmates. In 2002, after conducting extensive interviews with people released from death row, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen wrote the "documentary play" The Exonerated. The play, which follows six former prisoners as they try to put their lives back together, consists of excerpts from interviews and trial transcripts. In October, Reason TV producer Anthony L. Fisher sat down with Blank and Jensen to discuss the award-winning play. Go to for the complete interview.

reason: It's been 10 years since the first staging of the play, and there's been a TV movie based on it. What do you think the play's cultural impact has been?

Blank: We started working on the play when the idea of wrongful conviction was just entering the Zeitgeist. The death penalty was in the news because George W. Bush was running for president for the first time and had overseen more executions under his watch as governor [of Texas] than all of the other governors in all of the states in the United States combined since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the early' 70s. It was actually just the beginning of a national conversation about the issue, and the play, incredibly, became a part of that conversation. It was performed for Gov. George Ryan in Illinois right before he left office as part of his decision-making process about whether he was going to commute the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison [which he did].

reason: Can you talk a little bit about the Innocence Project's involvement with the play?

Blank: [The people at] the Innocence Project have been incredible supporters of the play almost since the very beginning. …