Hilary Swank Conviction

Hilary Swank Conviction


Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Peter Gallagher, Juliette Lewis
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Genre: Drama
Rated: M
Running Time: 107 minutes

Synopsis: Conviction is the inspirational true story of a sister's unwavering devotion to her brother.

When Betty Anne Waters' (two-time Academy® Award winner Hilary Swank) older brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is arrested for murder and sentenced to life in 1983, Betty Anne, a Massachusetts wife and mother of two, dedicates her life to overturning the murder conviction.

Convinced that her brother is innocent, Betty Anne puts herself through high school, college and, finally, law school in an 18 year quest to free Kenny. With the help of best friend Abra Rice (Academy Award nominee Minnie Driver), Betty Anne pores through suspicious evidence mounted by small town cop Nancy Taylor (Academy Award nominee Melissa Leo), meticulously retracing the steps that led to Kenny's arrest. Belief in her brother - and her quest for the truth - pushes Betty Anne and her team to uncover the facts and utilise DNA evidence with the hope of exonerating Kenny.

Release Date: 24th of February, 2011

About Conviction
Conviction is the incredible true story of Betty Anne Waters, a seemingly ordinary, working-class woman who embarked on an extraordinary 18-year quest to achieve the impossible when her brother Kenny was accused of a heinous murder he swore he didn't commit.

Betty Anne was an unemployed high school dropout and a struggling single mom with none of the resources needed to fight a long legal battle. But that didn't stop her. In an act of unwavering faith and devotion, she dedicated her entire life - sacrificing everything else - to freeing Kenny. Putting her fears and doubts aside, she first earned her high school diploma then her college degree. Finally she went to law school and passed the bar exam in two states, focused on representing the brother she had promised in their rough-and-tumble childhood she'd never abandon.

As Kenny tried to hang on in prison in his increasingly dark world, Betty Anne doggedly followed the shoddy evidence that had put him behind bars, following up on every clue that might possibly hold a key to proving his innocence.

Those who heard Betty Anne and Kenneth's story when it first made the news in the Spring of 2001 could not help but be moved by the unbreakable bond and steadfast refusal to give up that led to a man being saved against all the odds. Among those people was director Tony Goldwyn, whose wife saw the story on TV and urged him to investigate the incredible tale further. Tony Goldwyn - acclaimed for his portrait of a woman and a nation on the cusp of change in A Walk on the Moon - immediately saw in the Betty Anne's battle something quintessentially cinematic, a story that would break the mold of the typical courtroom drama to become an emotional detective story about family loyalty and determination.

Says Tony Goldwyn, "Betty Anne was a woman who gave up so much for her deep faith and belief in her brother, who could just as easily have been guilty. The questions for me were: What is that bond about? What is it that allows us to grasp onto impossible hope with those we love?"

These pivotal questions would lead Tony Goldwyn on a nine-year journey of his own to capture Betty Anne's dedication to Kenny on film. Tony Goldwyn's mission began with seeking the rights to the story, which had been acquired by New York-based filmmaker Andrew S. Karsch, who would come on board as the film's producer along with Andrew Sugerman.

Then Tony Goldwyn dove into research, travelling to the Waters' home town in Rhode Island, researching who Betty Anne and Kenny really were and how they forged the bond that held them together through such an epic struggle. Although they were often separated in different foster homes as children, they always held onto their love for one another.

Tony Goldwyn knew the basic facts of the case. In 1980, Massachusetts diner waitress Katharina Brow was found murdered in her trailer home, stabbed multiple times and robbed of $1,800 dollars. Early on, Kenny Waters, who lived near Brow and had a reputation as a troublesome kid, was questioned, and unequivocally said he was not involved. But two years later the confessions of two ex-girlfriends - who each claimed he admitted to the crime - helped to seal his conviction for murder, despite the lack of concrete evidence, and he received a life sentence without parole.

Yet Betty Anne never believed her brother was guilty, no matter what anyone - including a jury - might have said. Driven now to get him out of jail, and clear his name of the accusations that made no sense to her -- yet with no money for high-priced lawyers -- she made a daring leap for a woman with no job and two kids. She steadfastly continued her quest on the slim hope that if she could just get him an appeal and could just show the witnesses were coerced into lying, her brother might have a shot at freedom.

Tony Goldwyn recalls, "I felt that Betty Anne's was the kind of story that people are hungry for right now -- not about personal gain or naked ambition, but about one person acting purely out of commitment to another human being."

Telling the Story
Tony Goldwyn returned to the Waters' home a few weeks later with screenwriter Pamela Gray, with whom he had teamed so successfully on A Walk on the Moon. They spent a week there while Betty Anne filled in the blanks with stories of her and Kenny's life.

She told them about the remarkable promise she made to her brother. "I said, 'You promise that you'll stay alive and I will go to law school,'" recalls Betty Anne. "It took a long time and Kenny got extremely depressed. But he always felt that somehow I would find a way. He had so much faith in me. I still can't believe how much faith he had."

Tony Goldwyn and Pamela Gray were rapt hearing Betty Anne recount her roller coaster journey, during which she never once thought of giving up. Says Pamela Gray, "Betty Anne is a great storyteller. She was so passionate and humble and you could see that what she did came from love. She pursued the impossible and no matter how many times she was afraid she would fail, she just kept going."

"To some degree, I think we functioned as her therapist," Tony Goldwyn confesses. "We recorded everything she told us and then at night Pamela Gray and I would go back to the hotel and try to figure out how we were going to tell all of this truly incredible stuff that happened over a period of 40 years into one movie." They began to hammer out a structure for the screenplay that turned the story into a kind of personal detective tale, weaving all the strands of the brother and sister's lives.

Pamela Gray also began to pore through the mountains and mountains of court transcripts, which she says were riveting. "There were people lying and in conflict and it was fascinating to piece together what happened in the courtroom with the stories Betty Anne shared with us," she says.

One of the biggest challenges in crafting the intricate structure of the screenplay, says Pamela Gray, was that there was simply too much material, some of which was hard to let go. "The true story had an incredible amount of suspense and drama to it, more than I ever could have imagined," she says. "There were so many surprises and there was so much remarkable material for movie storytelling. The main questions were what to leave out and how to keep things moving forward in the most dramatic way."

As she worked, the screenwriter felt a personal responsibility to both Waters siblings. "I wanted to really honor what Betty Anne had accomplished - and to honor the brother who lost nearly half his life to a terrible injustice," she says.

At the same time, she didn't want to feel creatively hindered as she turned their multi-decade story into a taut two-hour screenplay. As with all true stories that become movies, Pamela Gray had to find the line between authenticity and strong storytelling.

"It was a process of taking the truth and then figuring out how to shape it dramatically with elements of fiction storytelling," she explains. "Three themes are interwoven through everything: the theme of brother/sister love, the theme of a courageous woman up against impossible odds and the theme of a legal system that can sometimes be corrupt and destroy people."

When the script was finished, Academy Award® winning actress Hilary Swank, who would ultimately join with a tight-knit ensemble cast in the role of Betty Anne, signed on as executive producer."We all wanted to tell this extraordinary story," says Hilary Swank, "and it was a long time coming. I've always been drawn to true stories because life is stranger than fiction - and this story amazed, moved and inspired me. I was really stirred by the script and by this bond between a brother and sister."

"Tony Goldwyn was the magnet who attracted all the talent to this film and his passion for the project was unparalleled," says producer Andrew S. Karsch.

Adds producer Andrew Sugerman, "Tony Goldwyn was all about the emotion and bringing out the essence of the humanity that's in this story. He was very precise in the casting and every other element of the film -- which allowed all that feeling to come through."

The storytelling may have come together beautifully but the rest of the process wasn't quite as smooth. Tony Goldwyn notes that the project hit the ground running "at a time when everything was falling apart." He explains: "The Screen Actors Guild was threatening a strike, the whole business was going through a change, and studio productions had ground to a halt. But after a long process, we then we received a waiver from SAG to make this as an independent movie. It gave us the traction needed to make this film in a crazy time, and we just drove it through."

He continues, "No matter how difficult it was to get the movie going, I stuck with it. I had a commitment to Betty Anne and I wasn't going to let it go. Ultimately, it really inspired me to see how we were able to put together cast and crew who were just as devoted to the story. It wasn't an ordinary job for any of us and it was really a blessing to be a part of that."

Casting Conviction
In casting Conviction, Tony Goldwyn put equal emphasis on all the characters and roles, aiming to forge a diverse ensemble that would allow the audience to really feel the relationships - some strengthening and others destructive -- that lay behind this story of a brother and sister's quest for justice. Joining Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell as Betty Anne and Kenny would be a trio of Academy Award® nominees: Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, and Melissa Leo.

"Together, a group of extraordinary performances give this film its power," sums up Andrew Karsch. Andrew Sugerman adds, "We had a cast of consummate actors, yet nobody was in a position to steal the show, because they each make their roles shine as real people. There was no ego, no attitude about this. Everyone felt strongly about bringing this story to life in a way that feels true."

It began of course with the role of Betty Anne, which Goldwyn always knew would require an actress capable of revealing the contours of inner strength, something that has been associated with Hilary Swank in roles such as her Academy Award® winning performance as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and her portrait of a teen who passed herself off as a boy in Boys Don't Cry.

For Tony Goldwyn, the key was that Hilary Swank was so much like Betty Anne under the skin. "Both Hilary Swank and Betty Anne are similar in their core. They have this intelligence, this steely strength and determination," he says. " Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer and came to L.A. with her mom when she was 15 to try and become an actress. They lived in a car. She may not have had the same struggles as Betty Anne but Hilary Swank has fought incredibly hard to realise her dreams. So there's a lot of synchronicity there. She's indefatigable. She works hard and is so prepared that it seems effortless. She just is Betty Anne."

When Tony Goldwyn first approached her, Hilary Swank was looking to take a break from playing real-life characters, but she couldn't get Betty Anne out of her mind, and she soon became one of the story's biggest supporters and an executive producer. She was especially drawn to the film's exploration of the bonds that can tie family, especially a brother and sister who have gone through hard times with each other, together in unbreakable ways.

"It's a rare kind of love that Betty Anne and Kenny have, where one would do anything for the other," she says. "It's something I think we all strive for in our lives, whether it's with a brother, a child, a parent or a best friend. And I think for Betty Anne, her whole life was about helping her family, and she felt it was natural to go to the ends of the earth for someone you love like that."

In preparing for the part, Hilary Swank wasn't immediately sure that she wanted to meet with Betty Anne, though they ultimately developed a close rapport that helped deepen the role. "I was worried that if I met her, I would feel a real obligation to be as much like her as possible when I didn't believe that was really important to the integrity of telling the story. Instead, I wanted to be able to find a way of portraying her the most honest way," explains Hilary Swank. "But when I met her, it only allowed me to feel her heart stronger."

Ultimately, having Waters on the set turned out to be a gift. "Most of the time, I didn't even know Betty Anne was there," Hilary Swank muses, "but I think it was cathartic, an important part of her healing. And I never felt like I was being judged."

For Waters, watching Hilary Swank inhabit her life was surreal. "It was the strangest feeling," she says. "I felt like I was watching myself."

Hilary Swank disappeared into the role. " Hilary Swank is an actress who doesn't hold herself above anyone. She doesn't make herself into celebrity, and because of that, you can relate to her as an individual, as a real person," says Andrew Sugerman. "I think that's an important quality Hilary brings to Betty Anne because Betty Anne was an ordinary person who was given an insurmountable task to accomplish in life. And Hilary Swank was really able to embody that in a way I think people will relate to."

Tony Goldwyn also knew that the audience's belief in Betty Anne's drive to help her brother would hinge on a raw, urgent, deeply felt performance in the role of Kenny Waters, a man who went overnight from a reckless kid to a hardened prisoner betrayed by the system, doubted by many and fighting desperately for his life. From the beginning, Tony Goldwyn had Sam Rockwell in mind for the part.

Sam Rockwell is known for a variety of memorable roles including the lead in George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; the crazed killer "Wild Bill" Wharton in The Green Mile, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opposite Brad Pitt; Matchstick Men; and the critically acclaimed Moon. But this would be something different than all of those.

"For Kenny, we knew we needed someone with extreme contrasts, someone big-hearted that you fall in love with and that you instantly care about -- yet also, someone with a madness, a violence in him that you think could have possibly have committed murder... someone completely mercurial - and that is Sam," says Tony Goldwyn.

Sam Rockwell won Karsch's vote after he saw him playing a misunderstood outsider in Lawn Dogs, a performance that garnered the actor critical raves. "I saw the incredible possibilities of what he could bring to Kenny," says Karsch. "Still, this is a very, very different kind of role for Sam. It brings out something poetic."

Adds Sam Sugerman, "Sam has all the qualities of Kenny, the ability to be tough, wild, a little crazy, but also to be empathetic. He's so unpredictable, you start to think maybe Kenny could have committed murder, because he has that quality where you can't be sure what he'll do next. The way Sam plays him, you wouldn't want to get on his wrong side, but he also has a real warmth and tenderness. Sam brought Kenny to life as such a vibrant personality, and with such emotional depth, that it went beyond what we ever imagined."

As soon as he picked up the script, Sam Rockwell sensed the role was special. "It's a very juicy part for an actor because of the emotional through-line Kenny has with Betty Anne, because of their bond," he says. "It's her story but he's such an important part of it and what he goes through is extremely intense."

To immerse himself in Kenny's overturned world, Sam Rockwell did personal research into what life in prison is like for a convicted murderer, talking with friends who had been incarcerated and reading several prison-life memoirs, including Jack Abbot's In The Belly of the Beast. Tragically, Kenny passed away after his release from prison, but Rockwell watched court footage of him and spoke at length with Betty Anne, who generously shared her memories.

"I found Betty Anne extraordinary," Sam Rockwell says. "She was an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things all for the love of her brother. I think it all went back to their childhood, which was so traumatic it was kind of like being in a war together. When they were sent to different foster homes, they made a vow never to be separated ever again and that gave them this inseparable bond that never weakened."

He also began to see the complexities of Kenny, who was accused of a terrible crime in part because people believed he was just enough of a charismatic troublemaker to be capable of murder. "Kenny could be very charming, loving and open. He had a childlike quality to him - and yet, he also had a temper that went pretty deep. He could snap in an instant. So to me, there was something almost Shakespearean about him. There's a bit of Mercutio in him," he says referring to the reckless free spirit in Romeo and Juliet.

Sam Rockwell says that Tony Goldwyn helped him to get even deeper into the sometimes comical, sometimes volatile and often heartbreaking character. "Tony Goldwyn is very insightful and intuitive. He understands what makes a moment spontaneous, honest and true and he can get that across on screen," he summarises.

The big test for Sam Rockwell came on the set, as he performed in front of Betty Anne Waters. Although Rockwell is not a physical match for her brother, who was a much larger person, she was deeply moved. "Betty Anne fell in love with him," recalls Tony Goldwyn. "She saw what a brilliant actor he is and over time she began to say 'that's Kenny.' He did such extraordinary work."

Hilary Swank says that, for her, working with Sam Rockwell was an experience unlike any other. "The chemistry was so extraordinary, I think it's one of the best experiences I've ever had with an actor," she states.

Surrounding Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank in Conviction is a carefully constructed ensemble cast that not only includes the award-winning trio of Lewis, Driver and Leo but also Peter Gallagher, Ari Graynor and Clea DuVall. "We took enormous pains to make sure that every piece of casting was exactly right. Each character, good or bad, had to feel vivid, complex and totally authentic," said Tony Goldwyn.

Minnie Driver was tapped for the key role of Abra Rice, who becomes Betty Anne's best friend in law school, her comic relief and the one rock she can hang onto as she herself tries to stay strong for her brother.

"I was focused on inhabiting the spirit of Abra," say Minnie Driver. "She's a very wry, very funny person, but she's also very driven. She came to law later in her life like Betty Anne, and today Abra has more cases than any public defender working in Connecticut."

She continues: "What I loved is that Abra is so devoted to Betty Anne and vice versa. I think if you have this kind of friendship in your life, the kind that is as close as family, you're very lucky. These two women would walk through fire for each other. It's a beautiful thing, that kind of support, and it lasted through circumstances that are really unimaginable for most of us."

Says Andrew Sugerman of Minnie Driver: "Minnie Driver has that quirky, funny, outgoing personality that makes her a great match for Abra, who was a very direct and confrontational best friend, and a terrific contrast with Hilary Swank."

Melissa Leo joined the cast the day after she was nominated for an Oscar® for her supporting role in Frozen River - and she took on the part of Police Officer Nancy Taylor.

"I think she was an extremely ambitious and bright woman," says Melissa Leo. "Everyone believes in themselves in one way or another and that's true of Nancy. I think my Nancy is somebody who hangs her hat on her own truth. She's never had a side to be on."

Tony Goldwyn was impressed with how she approached the role. "She gives such an interesting and persuasive performance," he says.

Juliette Lewis' character, Roseanna Perry, plays one of the two ex-girlfriends who testified against Kenny Waters. Juliette Lewis followed her instincts, "I really like trying different things. I went about this much the same way I always go about a part. To me it's like a pallet and using different colors for all these different emotions," she says. "A great character is all in the writing and this story is very rich and the scenes are really alive. It was a real challenge for me."

Hilary Swank was impressed with the energy Lewis brought to the part. "I have always been a fan of Juliette Lewis," she says, "and I think she has some scenes that almost steal the show."

Adds Tony Goldwyn of Juliette Lewis, "She has only two scenes in the film but Juliette threw herself into the character of Roseanna with total abandon and commitment. She obsessed on every detail and nuance and, as a result, has created an absolutely indelible character with a mere ten minutes of screen time."

Another essential role, that of Barry Scheck, the Innocence Project lawyer who devotes himself to exposing and overturning wrongful convictions, is played by prolific star of screen and television Peter Gallagher.

Peter Gallagher, who previously performed in the play The Exonerated, about six people wrongly convicted of murder, was excited to take the part of a man who has impacted the legal system so positively. "Barry is a hero," he says. "And I thought this was a terrifically moving story where you see people prevail even when all the forces of power seem to be against them."

To tackle playing Scheck, Peter Gallagher researched the work of The Innocence Project, which has helped many wrongly convicted prisoners overturn their convictions.

"When you learn about the methods that are used to extract false confessions and the zeal that some police departments and prosecutors have for getting convictions rather than seeking justice, it is surprising," he says. "You can't help but be moved by the plight of someone like Kenny who doesn't have the benefits of power on this side."

One character who feels powerless in the midst of overwhelming circumstances is Mandy, Kenny's daughter, who had only known her father as a convicted murderer in prison. She is played by Ari Graynor, one of the stars of television's hit show "Fringe," who met the real Mandy just a few days before shooting began and was astonished to hear her story.

"She's this wonderfully light, warm, sweet person and it was great to be able to understand the story and all the relationships from her point of view," she says. "When her dad was freed, I think it was hard for her. Suddenly, everything she had known about her family changed in the most enormous way possible. But she was also excited and thankful to know the truth and have the opportunity to meet him."

The scene in which Mandy meets Kenny for the first time was deeply moving for Graynor. "The first moment Mandy and her father see each other on the courthouse steps was really something to experience," says Graynor. "For her entire life, she believed him to be a murderer, and now, there's this beautiful moment between a father and daughter where Kenny is finally able to express his unconditional love for her. Sam is just the most amazing actor and it all felt very natural, with just the right chemistry."

Shooting Three Time Periods
When it came to the visual design of Conviction, Tony Goldwyn wanted all the emphasis put on the emotional connection between the characters and the audience. To that end, the photography, production design and costumes are all kept starkly real, while reflecting the changes the world goes through over the two decades that Betty Anne Waters fought to free her brother.

Tony Goldwyn worked closely with director of photography Adriano Goldman, a native of Brazil, whose award-winning work includes Cary Joji Fukunaga's Sin Nombre and the high-energy City of Men, the follow-up to City of God.

Tony Goldman says he and the director talked about how to shoot the cast in a way "that would show them as normal people with heroic purposes," he explains. Using the sinuous, handheld camerawork he is renowned for, Tony Goldman was able to keep things palpably real as well as intimate.

"For the scenes where we wanted to be closer to the characters and their feelings we always went handheld," Tony Goldman explains. "I like to operate the handheld camera for its style. It gives me the chance to reframe all the time and to create a direct connection between the acting and the camera behavior. I like to say that the camera dances with the actors. Only in the courthouse scenes did we choose to use a dolly to be more classic and neutral."

Production designer Mark Ricker, whose recent films include Julie and Julia and the HBO feature You Don't Know Jack, had the task of creating Betty Anne and Kenny's surroundings in three different periods: the mid `60s (when they were children), the early `80s (when the murder and Kenny's conviction occurred) and the mid `90s (when Betty Anne went to law school and Kenny's legal appeal unfolded). His main directive from Goldwyn was to always keep it real.

"There could be no artifice in this," Mark Ricker says, "not only because it's a true story, but because we wanted to feel very immediate."

For Mark Ricker, this meant getting the details right without ever being showy. "Even recreating 1995 can be challenging - it's fifteen years ago, but you have to get all the computers, all the cell phones, all the everyday items, right because that stuff changes so quickly," he notes. "But all of our choices were made from an emotional point of view in terms of picking the patterns, textures and colors."

Shooting in Michigan, Mark Ricker also had to create a lot of different kinds of locations, from diners and bars to courthouses, police stations and law libraries, all with a Massachusetts touch. "We took a mini-tour of Massachusetts to really soak up the flavor of the environment that Betty Anne and Kenny lived in," he explains. "That was paramount to what we were trying to do."

Whenever possible, items that belonged to the real characters were used as well, lending an even greater authenticity to the set.

"Actual wood carvings, trays and boxes that Kenny made became props," says Marc Ricker. "We used real photographs of Kenny and Betty Anne as children. She sent us her law books, her textbooks, her notebooks. Even Aidan's Pub in Bristol sent us photographs from the bar. It was great."

Costume designer Wendy Chuck, who recently created the costumes for the runaway vampire hit Twilight, also focused on authenticity. She contacted Betty Anne and Abra Rice to discuss what they actually wore during the time period covered in the film. She also used photographs of Betty Anne and Kenny to find vintage outfits in LA and Ann Arbor thrift stores.

She then worked closely with Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and the rest of the ensemble cast to create looks that would embody their character's personalities. "For each of them, we considered where they would shop, what would they choose to wear and how they would move in those clothes," she explains.

Reality influenced the designs at every turn. "For example," she says, "I learned from Betty Anne that she had put on about 10 pounds over time, so that was a clue as to how we could show the passage of time. We incorporated that by making a light 'fat suit' for Hilary, subtle but I think it helps reveal the changes and helped Hilary Swank also."

All of the film's design elements were important to Tony Goldwyn, who says: "Every creative department on the film worked with limited resources, yet were able to achieve a kind of creative flow that was extraordinary. I think that's because everyone was so emotionally connected to the story."

The intensity of devotion continued into post-production, where Tony Goldwyn collaborated with editor Jay Cassidy to cut the film into its final shape. The director picked Jay Cassidy after seeing his work on another true story with a non-linear structure: Sean Penn's Into The Wild, for which Jay Cassidy garnered an Oscar® nomination.

The two looked for ways to piece together the puzzle of the story so that it would keep audiences both at the edge of their seats and emotionally engaged. "This story spans eighteen years between the time of Kenny's incarceration and release. Add to that the flashbacks of Kenny and Betty Anne's childhood - and the big challenge in the editing room was to keep an emotional through-line for these characters over such a long time span," says Jay Cassidy. "Tony Goldwyn was determined to manage the time jumps in the story without resorting to the conventions like titles with dates - convenient benchmarks for the audience - and we achieved that."

While Kenneth Waters would never have been freed without his sister's remarkable determination and belief, she also received vital assistance from a real organisation that has helped to save many lives. This is The Innocence Project, which was founded in 1992 by attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld to assist prisoners who could possibly be proven innocent by DNA testing.

To date, some 258 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on Death Row in spite of their innocence. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before their release - and about 70% of those exonerated by DNA testing have been minorities. The Innocence Project maintains that the sheer numbers of innocent people freed to date suggests there are serious systemic defects in the legal system, defects that continue to allow innocent men and women to be punished for crimes they never committed.

When Betty Anne Waters discovered blood evidence that could exonerate her brother Kenny, she made an impassioned plea to Barry Scheck, asking for his help. The Innocence Project is inundated with hundreds of requests for help every year, but when Barry Scheck heard Betty Anne's story he knew this was something different.

"It's not every day that you get a call from someone who says, 'I'm a lawyer representing my brother and I just got out of law school,'" he laughs: "She was completely passionate and sincere. One had to respect the fact that here's a mom with two kids who gets her GED, goes to college, runs a bar, and graduates from law school all for the purposes of getting her brother out of jail. I knew that she was special and we wanted to help her. We started reading the transcripts, and to say this was a thin case is an understatement. It was pretty clear to me this was an innocent man."

Barry Scheck also got to know Kenny as the case finally wrapped up. "He was one of the more interesting and funny people I've gotten to know," he says. "He was really smart, a great storyteller and he had such a special relationship with Betty Anne. He was a dynamic guy to be around."

With Barry Scheck's assistance, Betty Anne Waters was able to witness her brother be exonerated by the DNA evidence in March of 2001 and released from prison -- but the case of who killed Katharina Brow remains unsolved. Although the DNA that was discovered could point to the real killer, investigators have yet to match it to any suspects.

The film is dedicated to Kenny, who died Sept. 19, 2001 from a fatal fall after only six months of freedom. He was 47.

"Whether Kenny had lived another sixty years, six months or even six days, he finally became a free man and he died a free man. He finally got to connect with the daughter who never knew him," said Betty Anne. "He died with his name cleared and the truth was out. And the truth of the love story between a sister and brother reverberates no matter what happened."