The nine-part documentary series looks at how eight innocent people were falsely accused, convicted and imprisoned in the US and the efforts of The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organisation, to clear their names through DNA testing.
Produced by Oscar-nominated directors Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?), Alex Gibey (The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley), and Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence), the series “unravels missteps and deceit in a series of wrongful convictions, exposing the injustice inflicted on the victims and the accused”.
The nine-episode series is split into three themes: the evidence, the witnesses and the prosecution involved in each case, with the episodes ranging between 50 and 85 minutes in length.
Here’s everything you need to know about The Innocence Files…
When is The Innocence Files released?
The first series of The Innocence Files was released 15th April in the UK on Netflix. All nine episodes are now available to stream.
Netflix has not yet announced whether it will commission a second series of The Innocence Files. The Innocence Project has worked on 189 successful DNA-based exonerations as of November 2019, so the true-crime documentary could return to examine another group of wrongful convictions.
How can I watch The Innocence Files?
You can stream The Innocence Files on Netflix with a membership for the platform.
Netflix memberships range from £5.99 to £11.99 per month, depending on the quality of your membership. The platform offers a one month free trial, after which users are charged £8.99 a month for the standard subscription.
Who features in The Innocence Files?
The series features the eight men who were falsely accused and convicted. Chester Hollman III, sentenced to life in prison for murder, was released but only after serving 28 years of his sentence, while Alfred Dewayne Brown spent nearly a decade on death row for armed robbery and murder before being exonerated.
Kenneth Wyniemko was convicted of criminal sexual misconduct based on the testimony of a prison informant who later admitted he had lied to avoid life in prison, and was released after DNA testing proved his innocence. Levon Brooks served 16 years for the rape and murder of a three-year-old he did not commit, while Kennedy Brewer spent 13 years on death row for the murder of his girlfriend’s three-year-old before he was released.
Franky Carrillo, who spent twenty years in prison for murder despite having a solid alibi, also features in the series as well as Keith Harward, who served 33 years for a rape and murder he did not commit, and Thomas Haynesworth – a man wrongfully convicted of rape in 1984 and exonerated in 2011.
The series also features the co-founders of The Innocence Project, lawyers Barry Scheck and Paul Neufeld, who set up the nonprofit with the intention of exonerating the wrongly convicted. The pair receive thousands of letters each year from inmates who claim to be innocent. In 2010, the film Conviction, starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, was made about the organisation’s role in exonerating Kenny Walters – a man wrongfully accused of murder.
Those who played a significant role in convicting the eight men are interviewed as well, such as Dr Michael West. He is the forensic dentist who determined bite marks on Brooks’s alleged victim to match two of his teeth, leading to Brooks’s imprisonment despite the unreliability of the bite-mark method.
Is it a true story?
The series is a documentary, which examines the real-life cases of eight wrongfully convicted men in the US, all of whom lacked the resources to argue their innocence. It also looks at how the prosecution in some cases withheld evidence and how the now-exonerated men moved on with their lives after spending years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
The Innocence Project is also a key subject of the true-crime series, as the nonprofit used advances in DNA testing to prove the innocence of each convict.