Recognizing that “the pain and frustration of wrongful conviction and incarceration often manifests itself in incredibly meaningful forms of artistic expressions,” Professor Mark Godsey came to the Freedom Center Journal (FCJ) with the idea for FCJ to dedicate a future issue to the creative works of individuals who have been wrongfully convicted, in conjunction with the 2011 Innocence Network Conference. As a journal that prides itself on truly being interdisciplinary, FCJ welcomed the opportunity to work with the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) while also bringing awareness to the social injustices experienced by those who have been wrongfully convicted.
The collaborations that made this special issue possible quickly expanded beyond the law school to multiple departments across UC's campus. Students in Professor Stan Brod's Fall 2010 Design Methodology Studio at UC’s School of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning were responsible for the graphic design of the project, designing the layout of the entire issue, as well as its cover. Assistant Professor Sean Hughes of the College of Arts and Sciences and his students photographed the works that appear in Part II of the issue. Drawing from her experience with art's impact on politics, Professor Adrian Parr, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the School of Architecture and Interior Design, provided the introduction to the issue.
A Look Inside the Book
The issue is divided into three sections: Part I includes work from artist Dan Bolick's "Resurrected" collection of portraits. Bolick's paintings depict exonerees who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death or life in prison.
Part II of the issue consists of the creative expressions of 28 individuals who were also wrongfully convicted. The creative expressions include letters, poems, essays, artwork, and photographs of gifts made while incarcerated allowing the reader an insight into the reality of wrongful conviction.
Each individual's work is accompanied by a case profile explaining what led to the wrongful conviction. Not all of the individuals included in this section have been exonerated. Some have been released from prison without an official recognition of wrongful conviction; some still remain incarcerated irrespective of their actual innocence. The case profiles were researched by OIP fellows and written by FCJ associate editors. The profiles were compiled from various newspaper articles, media transcripts, website sources, case opinion and other court documents, and personal knowledge provided by attorneys or others who personally have advocated on behalf of these individuals. Some stories were reprinted with permission of various innocence network organizations across the country.
Part III of the issue includes photographs by a world-renowned photographer who portrays individuals who were wrongfully convicted, incarcerated, and later exonerated through DNA evidence.
This special collaborative issue of the FCJ represents several months of hard work on the part of many students, faculty, and staff. It is particularly fitting that this issue is the first issue to be published since the October 2010 launch of the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at the College of Law of which FCJ is formally a part. By building coalitions with organizations locally, nationally, and globally, the Center seeks to identify the interconnectedness of what justice means across disciplines and communities. In helping to give voice to the wrongfully convicted, this collaboration does just that.
We are honored to be a part of OIP’s inspired work and to make this work available and accessible to a larger audience. Though a relatively small gesture, we hope that this special issue, titled Illustrated Truth: Expressions of Wrongful Conviction, appropriately honors the convicted innocent for their great courage and humanity.
The book will be available for purchase for $30 at the conference.
Written by: Teresa Martinez-Mulwane ‘11, Editor-in-Chief, Freedom Center Journal