“The Innocents,” a documentary-style exhibit opening Saturday at Guild Hall, illustrates the cases of people convicted of violent crimes they did not commit. They were serving prison sentences, some on death row, when the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization now in its 25th year, won their release through DNA and other exonerating evidence.
Here are three “Innocents”:
A baseball player drafted by the Oakland Athletics, Williamson was convicted of raping and strangling a barmaid in 1982. He was defended by a blind attorney who lacked assistance in investigating the case and, during the trial, made no mention of Williamson’s mental illness or his active psychosis. Williamson served 11 years on death row before DNA evidence procured by Innocence Project lawyers proved he could not have been the assailant. Williamson was released in 1999.
In 1991, an 11-year-old girl of a wealthy Tulsa, Oklahoma, family was raped while swimming in her pool by a man who said he was doing yard work. Though he did not fit the description provided by the victim, Durham was convicted of rape and robbery and sentenced to 3,220 years in prison, lowered by a century on appeal. Emerging DNA techniques proved that the semen and hair samples on which he was convicted excluded Durham. He was released in 1997. A man fitting the rapist’s description hanged himself.
A woman was stabbed to death in 1980 in her Massachusetts home, from which jewelry and money were taken. Waters, a neighbor, was charged with the crime, though evidence indicated that the victim fought for her life and drew blood from her attacker. Waters was arrested without a scratch on his body. After serving 18 years of a life sentence, DNA testing proved in 2001 that the murderer’s blood recovered at the crime scene was not Waters’. Waters died in a car accident six months after his release.
Justice is imperfect. But how do such life-destroying travesties occur? Taryn Simon’s “The Innocents” documents 14 such cases through photographs, video and supporting text providing background in each case. Simon first exhibited “The Innocents” at the P.S. 1 outpost of the Museum of Modern Art in 2002. This updated version at Guild Hall coincides with the Innocence Project’s silver anniversary. Since 1992, 350 wrongfully convicted people have been exonerated through the team’s efforts and 149 true perpetrators have been apprehended.
“The work is being re-presented,” Simon says, “at a historical moment when the lines between fact and falsehood are continuously being manipulated and redrawn.”
Simon’s exhibit focuses on photographic evidence that helped convict innocent people. Mug shots presented to victims or witnesses are often misleading, she says, just as eyewitness testimony can be. People don’t remember accurately weeks or months later. “The Innocents” takes the wrongfully convicted person back to the scene of the crime he did not commit.
See for yourself.
WHAT “Taryn Simon: The Innocents”
WHEN | WHERE Saturday through July 30, Museum at Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday; noon-5 p.m. daily starting July 3
ADMISSION Free; 631-324-0806, guildhall.org
Graham retro at Parrish Art Museum
WHAT “John Graham: Maverick Modernist” presents a retrospective of an artist whose influence in the first half of the 20th century ranged from artists (Jackson Pollock and Stuart Davis) to collectors (Baltimore’s Cone sisters, champions of Matisse, and Duncan Phillips, founder of Washington’s Phillips Collection). His own quirky modernist paintings show why he was such an important trendsetter.
WHEN | WHERE Through July 30, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays, until 8 p.m. Fridays
ADMISSION $12, seniors $9, students free; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org