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A new documentary about the high-profile case of four Chicana lesbians indicted for sex crimes that attorneys say never happened. Read more

Austin, TX Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on July 2, 2013.

A new documentary about the high-profile case of four Chicana lesbians indicted for sex crimes that attorneys say never happened.

Austin, TX Documentary
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About this project

Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez, and Cassandra Rivera
Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez, and Cassandra Rivera

The Project

In the late 1990s, four Latina lesbians from San Antonio, Texas, were wrongfully convicted of the gang rape of two young sisters, a crime that never took place. Three of the women were sentenced to 15 years of prison; the fourth, the girls' aunt and alleged ringleader, received a sentence of 37 years. Now—as reported in the New York Times, Forbes, and the Austin Chronicle—the Innocence Project of Texas is fighting to free them.

Our production team is shadowing Mike Ware and Jeff Blackburn, legendary attorneys with the Innocence Project, as they navigate the labyrinthine rules of the Texas justice system to exonerate these innocent gay women, now known as the San Antonio Four. In 2012, we were able to contribute to the exoneration effort by capturing an accuser's recantation on camera. We continue to document the re-investigation of the case as it unfolds.

Your contribution will help us create this important contemporary film about one of the most important LGBTQ cases in American criminal history. It's a painful story of how homophobia, "junk science," and the Satanic ritual abuse panic of the late 1980s and early 1990s created a frenzy of pressure to punish four innocent gay women. And it's a hopeful story of advocates in and out of the criminal justice system who are working to redress that wrong

Themes & Stakes

This documentary film investigates the role of homophobia in the four women’s trials, showing how court proceedings descended into salaciousness and raunch, as the prosecutor spun bizarre tales about the defendants’ alleged behavior—tales which sounded less like real crimes than heterosexual males' porn-film fantasies. At the time of the trials, lesbians were presumed by some to be predisposed to sexually abusing little girls. The actual reality of LGBTQ life, and LGBTQ rights, are now central to key debates in national politics, raising the question of whether increased consciousness about these issues will help the women’s chances for exoneration.

A second theme is the role of "junk science" in court proceedings—prosecutors' practice of introducing supposedly scientific evidence that does not stand up to scientific testing. In the case of the San Antonio Four, prosecutors used long-debunked theories of molestation to provide "evidence" of abuse. Issues surrounding junk science raise serious questions about the moral and legal implications of facts and evidence in the criminal justice system.

Using historical footage and through interviews with experts, we will revisit a dark but easily forgotten moment in recent American history, when hundreds of innocent women and men were indicted for alleged “Satanic ritual sex abuse.” We explore the curious fact that while many of these accusations took place in highly religious, uneducated, and small-town communities, accusations in the San Antonio Four case were brought by urban and educated people, including a forensic pediatrician.

Finally, the film explores the convoluted and dramatic process required in Texas to exonerate falsely convicted innocents. "The treacherous part," says attorney Mike Ware to our cameras, “is that in Texas, you get only one bite at the apple.” The stakes for these four innocent women are dauntingly high. And whether their appeals ultimately succeed or fail, we want to honor—and contribute to—their struggle by making it known to a wider community.

Your Contribution

How we will use this funding for the next 4-6 month phase of our project:

Travel: Gas, Hotel for six trips
$2,500

Equipment Rental: Lenses, Light Kits, Sound
$2,500

Archival Footage: Relevant historical news and documentation, photos and film
$3,000

Production Crew: Light, Sound, Director of Photography
$3,500 (reduced rate, includes volunteers)

Editing: 
$3,500 (reduced rate, includes volunteers)

Thank you for your consideration, and thank you for believing in our efforts to tell this important story.

Risks and challenges

During the last 18 months that we've been filming we have received considerable access into the prisons and into the attorneys' inner sanctum to catch a glimpse of how teams of advocates and attorneys work to exonerate falsely accused innocents. Yet, the realities of these battles is that they can - in some cases - take quite a long time. Therefore, the challenge we foresee is in the process of waiting: waiting for briefs to be filed, judges to accept hearings, prosecuting and defense teams working together. While we hope the women will receive their exoneration hearings by the end of this year, there is always a chance that such hearings could be postponed. As a producing team, however, we are committed to seeing this case through the long-haul, however long adjudicating this case might take.

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    Digital Download of the final film, a thank you note and mention on website.

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    Rewards listed above PLUS a DVD of the finished film signed by the director.

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    NEW!! You will receive access to a secret work-in-progress screener via a private link. The in-progress footage has been so popular it's been written about in various publications and screened at festivals and other community events. Get to see the footage before the film is finalized! FOOTAGE WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR ONE MONTH ONLY (July 2 - August 2, 2013).

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    All of the above PLUS a "Special Thanks" in the rolling credit at end of film.

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    Rewards listed above PLUS a personalized thank you note from one of the San Antonio Four.

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    Rewards listed above PLUS an 8x10 signed screen grab from one of the SA4.

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    Rewards listed above PLUS a private screening of film with members of cast and/or crew from the film (cast/crew will travel within Texas only; backers outside of Texas are invited to screen in Austin. Note: travel expenses not included).

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    Rewards listed above PLUS a 4-course Chef's All of the above PLUS Dinner and private screening for 6 at Director's house in Austin or your Central Texas location of choice (cast/crew will travel within Texas only; backers outside of Texas are invited to screen in Austin. Note: travel expenses not included)

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    All of the above PLUS backer(s) granted PRODUCING CREDIT AT THE FRONT OF THE FILM.

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Funding period

- (31 days)