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'The Exonerated' a chilling look at justice systemKAZU sponsors local production

Nov. 8, 2009

*Imagine everything you did between 1976 and 1992. *

Now remove all of it.

Those 16 years were taken away from Sunny Jacobs, convicted and sentenced to death for a crime she did not commit.

It could happen just as easily to you.

The criminal justice system sometimes breaks down. And when the sentence is death, wrongful convictions are tragic – and sometimes irreversible.

"The Exonerated," a powerful drama, highlights the flaws in the American legal system through the words of inmates who survived their death penalty convictions. It tells the true stories of six innocent men and women sentenced to die - their trials, imprisonment, the events that led to their release and their attempts to return to a normal life. Much more than stories of how the system failed them, it's evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, and testimony to the hope that truth can prevail.

The production will be staged at the Golden State Theater in Monterey at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 and 21. Proceeds benefit KAZU, National Public Radio for the Monterey Bay area, and the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara Law School.

Writers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen based the play on interviews, letters, case files and public records. It attracted celebrity actors to its original off-Broadway production in 2002, and has been staged around the country since then, including performances at the United Nations.

The stories highlight the role that money and prejudice play in justice. All six people experienced discrimination, coerced confessions, scapegoating and mishandled or unrevealed evidence.

Kathleen "Cookie" Ridolfi, executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) and Linda Starr, the project's legal director, will take the stage after the performance for a brief question-and-answer session

The NCIP, part of the International Innocence Network, operates as a pro-bono law school clinical program where students, interns, clinical fellows, attorneys and volunteers work to identify and provide legal representation to wrongfully convicted prisoners. The project is also dedicated to raising public awareness about the prevalence and causes of wrongful conviction as well as promoting substantive legal reforms to prevent future wrongful convictions.

Its website lists eight people who have been exonerated through the efforts of the project.

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $50 for admission and VIP reception and can be ordered online at https://site.thenews/ or by calling 582-4580.

Jaw-dropping. . .an intense and deeply affecting play - Ben Brantley, New York Times