Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mark your calendars: Salem Progressive Film Series resumes Sep. 10 with a must-see film and talk by an exonerated man

Cover of "The Exonerated"Cover of The Exonerated

One of the most unusual contradictions is that people who support the death penalty tend to have very little faith in government's ability to do anything right, as the furor over health care and bailouts shows. The fact that government, like any human enterprise, is imperfect, somehow seems to get shoved to the side when peoples' bloodlust is aroused by the desire for revenge against a heinous killer. The problem is, even setting aside the moral concerns about killing to condemn killing, is that the system that brings a tiny few people, primarily minorities, to death row is fraught with incentives for error, bias, and downright lying, which has often resulted in innocent people being condemned to die and, almost certainly, actual executions of innocents.

Thanks to DNA technologies, we're constantly being reminded of how error-filled the death system is, so this is an opportune moment to revisit the question of whether state-approved killing to punish killers -- or maybe just completely innocent people -- makes any sense. The Salem Public Library has an important book on the subject that will make your appreciation of the upcoming SPFS film even greater.

Thanks to the dedicated volunteers who work hard to put together the Salem Progressive Film Series, which shows a different, important film every month on the second Thursday at 7 p.m.:
DATES: Sep 10, 2009
TIME: 7:00 pm
DESCRIPTION: Salem Progressive Film Series Begins the 2009-10 season with "jolting and powerful" film, The Exonerated.
The Grand Theater, 191 High St. NE, downtown Salem,OR

Salem’s Progressive Film Series (SPFS), kicks off their 2009-2010 offerings with a presentation of The Exonerated, an award-winning film and stage play. The film presents the true stories of six exonerated survivors of death row. While every bit of dialogue in the film is true and documented, it is only a glimpse into the lives of the 135 people, since 1976 released from death row prison sentences, after they were proven innocent. An all-star cast, including Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, Brian Dennehy, is featured in the film described as ‘jolting”, “powerful” and "stories you will never forget" by critics and viewers alike.

As is the custom with SPFS events, a discussion will take place following the film presentation. Guest speaker will be Curtis McCarty who was exonerated in 2007 after serving 21 years…19 years on death row, for a 1982 murder he didn’t commit. His freedom was granted after DNA evidence was presented and proof of prosecutorial misconduct by the State’s chief forensic analyst was proven. The great number of cases, such as Curtis McCarty’s, are causing people throughout the United States to question the ability of the criminal justice system to adequately and fairly administer a death penalty.

Joining Mr. McCarty will be Ron Steiner, a community organizer with Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP). Mr. Steiner was an active member of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, leading up to that state’s March 2009 repeal. He is also a member of the national board of directors of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation.

The Salem Progressive Film Series takes place the second Thursday of each month. The September film presentation and discussion will be Sept. 10th, 7PM at The Grand Theater, 191 High St. NE, downtown Salem. Major sponsors of SPFS include The Historic Grand Theater, Salem Monthly and Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Peter Bergel, Executive Director of Oregon Peace Works, one of the on-going sponsors of the film series, says regarding the death penalty, “Almost all of us know in our hearts that killing others feels wrong. Moreover, it is ineffective as a deterrent and expensive as a punishment. That leaves only ‘getting even’ as a motivation and that’s not worth it.”

Dr. Bill Long, former Willamette U. law professor and chair of the Outreach Committee of OADP, stated that "On top of all the other problems with the death penalty, one that gives great pause for concern is the possibility that we might execute an innocent person." Curtis McCarty will give testimony to how close we come to that horrible outcome.

For more information on the SPFS, visit http://www.salemprogressivefilms.net or call (503) 588-8713 or (503) 779-5288
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