Based on true events in the midst of the 2000 election, AMERICAN VIOLET tells the astonishing story of Dee Roberts (critically hailed newcomer Nicole Beharie), a 24 year-old African American single mother of four young girls living in a small Texas town who is barely making ends meet on a waitress salary and government subsidies.
On an early November morning while Dee works a shift at the local diner, the powerful local district attorney (Academy Award® nominee Michael OKeefe) leads an extensive drug bust, sweeping her Arlington Springs housing project with military precision. Police drag Dee from work in handcuffs, dumping her in the squalor of the womens county prison. Indicted based on the uncorroborated word of a single and dubious police informant facing his own drug charges, Dee soon discovers she has been charged as a drug dealer.
Even though Dee has no prior drug record and no drugs were found on her in the raid or any subsequent searches, she is offered a hellish choice: plead guilty and go home as a convicted felon or remain in prison and fight the charges thus, jeopardizing her custody and risking a long prison sentence.
Despite the urgings of her mother (Academy Award® nominee Alfre Woodard), and with her freedom and the custody of her children at stake, she chooses to fight the district attorney and the unyielding criminal justice system he represents. Joined in an unlikely alliance with an ACLU attorney (Tim Blake Nelson) and former local narcotics officer (Will Patton), Dee risks everything in a battle that forever changes her life and the Texas justice system. AMERICAN VIOLET also stars Emmy Award® winner Charles S. Dutton and Xzibit.
Here’s the movie trailer:
This is an independent movie, and is not in wide release. But if it is in your town, it might be worth a look.
The movie is based on a true story, which is detailed here. Another site has an engaging interview with Regina Kelly, upon whom the Dee Roberts character is based. Kindly enough, the video was placed on Youtube:
Fortunately for Kelly, her story had a happy ending, albiet, a very horrible beginning.
But some people in Texas aren’t (or weren’t) that lucky. This is from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
AUSTIN — Twenty-two years ago, Ruby Session listened in disbelief as a Lubbock jury convicted her son, Timothy Cole, of rape. She promised herself that one day she would make sure this injustice was corrected.
“I always had faith and I just believed that it would one day happen,” Session said.
That day finally came Tuesday when, after years of efforts by Cole’s family and a relentless group of supporters, state District Judge Charles Baird issued the first posthumous DNA exoneration in Texas history.
“The evidence is crystal clear that Timothy Cole died in prison an innocent man and I find to 100 percent moral, legal and actual certainty that he did not commit the crime that he was convicted of,” Baird said.
Cole was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in 1986, after Michele Mallin identified him as the man who attacked her near Texas Tech University. Cole had always maintained his innocence.
In 1995, Jerry Wayne Johnson, who was serving two consecutive life sentences in prison for sexual assaults in Lubbock, admitted raping Mallin. Authorities ignored his confession until the Innocence Project of Texas took up the case in 2007. DNA tests in 2008 confirmed that Johnson was Mallin’s attacker.
Cole died in prison in 1999 at age 38 from complications of asthma.
FYI: The Innocence Project of Texas is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and securing freedom for men and women wrongfully imprisoned for serious crimes in the State of Texas.
As noted on the Project’s website, “the State of Texas is home to more verified wrongful convictions than any other state in the Nation. 32 individuals have been exonerated by DNA testing, and several more have had their wrongful convictions overturned on other grounds.”
You can read more about the Project starting here.