Probably not. Yet perhaps you would.
In police interrogations in the U.S., it is common to use special techniques to coerce the suspect to confess to a crime. They say that trained interrogators can get anybody to confess to anything - and often people get sentenced with no other evidence than their own (false) confession.
This profound injustice has inspired defense lawyer Jane Fisher-Byrialsen to fight for the wrongfully convicted and to fight against the manipulative and coercive techniques that are employed.
It is not only a fight for justice; it is a David and Goliath struggle against the entire conservative U.S. justice system.
With 'In the Closed Room' we want to raise awareness of the flaws in the U.S. justice system that lead to way too many false confessions. We believe that this documentary can help Jane in her fight for a more transparent and just interrogation process and thereby be a step on the way to fewer wrongfully convicted people in American prisons.
Something needs to be done!
'In the Closed Room' follows Jane as she fights with personal courage to exonerate people who are wrongfully convicted because they have given a false confession.
Through three of Jane's cases we look at the psychological aspect of why people end up confessing to crimes they have not committed and what consequences it entails – for them, for their families and for society.
As Jane works on her false confession cases, she fights to convince the authorities that there is urgent need for reform within the U.S. legal system. She knows that she is up against powerful forces – but Jane is not the kind of person who lets injustice prevail.
The first time Jane encountered the problem of false confessions at close hand was when she won historic compensation for Korey Wise, one of the wrongfully convicted in the famous ‘Central Park Jogger Case’. Korey was only 16 years old when he falsely confessed to having taken part in this rape and attempted murder.
Despite his young age, he was interrogated for over 72 hours, beaten and not allowed to see his mother; he was taken to the crime scene and was shown shocking images of the injured victim from the Central Park attack - all as means to planting the story in him.
Korey was convicted of the crime even though his confession was the only evidence. After 13 years and four months in prison the real perpetrator confessed to the crime, and Korey was exonerated.
Korey has been a huge inspiration to Jane and is one of the reasons why she has taken on the fight against the many convictions based on false confessions.
Korey is now giving speeches about his story and trying to help other wrongfully imprisoned people.
Late one evening on a residential street in Buffalo, New York, an old woman was brutally murdered. Despite a set of bloody foot- and fingerprints at the crime scene, it proved difficult to track down the killer. After a long investigation, a woman named Renay Lynch was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after confessing to the crime.
At the time of her confession, Renay was deeply dependent on drugs and the officer interrogating her promised that if she cooperated and confessed to the crime, she would be able to leave to get her fix. At this stage, Renay could not imagine the enormous consequences of this 'cooperation' – the only thing on her mind was her next hit – so she confessed.
Renay has now served 20 years for felony murder but has never stopped proclaiming her innocence. Jane is convinced that she is telling the truth and is fighting to get her exonerated.
The main storyline of the film follows Jane's work with Renay's case. It is told as an investigative crime story, following Jane, as she talks to witnesses, people who knew Renay and police officers who worked on the case and who slam the door right in Jane's face when she shows up at their doorstep. We are with Jane's people when fingerprints and DNA are being reanalysed and when the hunt for more concrete evidence takes place.
If Jane does not succeed Renay will probably never get out of prison.
In 2014, Malthe, a Danish young man, was accused of sexually abusing children at a preschool in Manhattan.
One early morning Malthe was picked up by the police, interrogated for hours without breaks, lied to, and tricked into giving a false confession. The interrogator informed him that they had video of him taking children’s hands and placing them on his genitals, which was an outright lie. He was detained in Rikers Island, one of New York’s most notorious prisons and referred to as a “sex monster” by the media.
Jane succeeded in getting him acquitted and has now taken on his compensation case. The psychological pressure he endured still haunts him every day. Malthe has nightmares almost every night and has difficulties doing even the most basic things in life like grocery shopping. His world is crumbling and his only hope is that the compensation case will bring him some kind of justice and with that a new beginning.
Read more about his case in New York Times.
In the U.S. police interrogators are trained in a special technique, ‘The Reid Technique’. This technique is designed to make a guilty person confess but it is not particularly good at revealing if they have the wrong person in the chair. Many experts believe that everybody, guilty or not, exposed to this technique will break at some point, become confused, have self-doubt and eventually start to believe that they may actually have committed but repressed the memory of the crime of which they are accused.
These interrogations often take place behind closed doors and with only one or a few persons present. In most states the interrogation itself is not filmed or documented – only when the confession is ready will the camera be turned on.
It is estimated that in U.S. prisons there might be as many as 40,000-100,000 inmates who are wrongfully convicted (The Innocence Project). This is 2.5-5% of all prisoners and it is estimated that about a third of them have given a false confession.
The use of The Reid Technique is not allowed in several European countries because of its record of forcing false confessions.
All over the U.S. there are groups fighting to get people out of jail who made false confessions due to this technique.
We want to change some of the preconceptions about how an interrogation should take place. We will question whether what is happening is according to human rights. We want the film to generate a vibrant debate that will reach the policy makers, the prosecutors and the police – a debate that will lead to change in the U.S. legal system.
Jane is on a very special and important mission and we want to help her on her way through this battle.
- Support us on Kickstarter!
Even if it's just a small amount - everything counts and helps us to achieve our goal. We are thankful for every single one of our backers.
Some of you might not be able to contribute money to our project. That is totally fine. But that doesn't mean you can't help at all!
Here's what else you can do to support our documentary:
Katrine Philp is an Emmy-nominated director who graduated as a documentary film director from The National Film School of Denmark in 2009.
Her first film, 'Book of Miri', was awarded the President's Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, was nominated at IDFA and won the European Young CIVIS Media Prize in Germany.
In 2014 Katrine won the Audience Award at the American Documentary Film Festival for her debut feature length documentary 'Dance For Me' which was also selected for POV on PBS in 2014 and nominated for an Emmy Award in the category ‘Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming’ in 2015.
Her latest film, 'Home Sweet Home', was competing in the Kids & Docs competition at IDFA and won a Danish Academy Award (Robert Prize) in 2016.
- Mellemrum (2016) · Produced by Made By Us (architecture documentary)
- Home Sweet Home (2015) · Produced by Good Company Pictures (documentary)
- The Ramasjang Generation (2014 - 2015) · Produced by Made By Us (children's documentary serie)
- Dance for Me (2013) · Produced by Klasse Film (debut feature documentary)
- Suitable (2013) · Produced by Bullit Film (TV documentary)
- Book of Miri (2009) · Produced by The National Danish Film School
- New Urban Spaces (2009) · Produced by Danish Architecture Center
- Susanne's Gods (2009) · Produced by Barok Film (docu TV serie)
Producer Katrine A. Sahlstrøm worked for the Danish director Lars von Trier for 7 years before she took the leap from fiction to documentary in 2011. She holds a bachelor in Film- and Media Science from the universities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
She produced Katrine Philp's 'Home Sweet Home', which premiered at IDFA in 2015.
Her first documentary, 'Ai Weiwei The Fake Case', was in the main competition at IDFA, won the Critic's Award (Bodil) in Denmark and was selected for POV on PBS.
She was also associate producer on 'Natural Disorder', which competed in the main competition at IDFA in 2015.
She is the producer behind:
- Home Sweet Home (2015) by Katrine Philp
- Natural Disorder (2015) by Christian Sønderby Jepsen
- Ejersbo (2015) by Christian Bonke
- Future Road (2015) by Ulrik E. E. Gutt-Nielsen
- Genetic Me (2014) by Pernille Rose Grønkjær
- Ai Weiwei The Fake Case (2013) by Andreas Johnsen (IDFA nomination and shortlist, Robert nomination, Cinema for Peace- justice nomination and Bodil award
As assisting producer, selected work
- A Royal Affair (2012) by Nikolaj Arcel
- Melancholia (2011), Antichrist (2009), Manderlay (2005)
by Lars von Trier
- Dear Wendy (2005) by Thomas Vinterberg
- A Normal Life (2012) by Mikala Krogh
- Free the Mind (2012) by Phie Ambo
- Ballroom Dancer (2011) by Christian Bonke and Andreas Koefoed
- Love Addict (2011) by Pernille Rose Grønkjær
Signe graduated from the National Film School of Denmark where she met and started the collaboration with Katrine Philp that they continue to this day. Signe has edited most of Katrine Philp's documentaries and last year she edited the Sundance Special Jury Award winner Pevert Park.
Adam has worked with documentary, fiction and commercials since he graduated from The National Film School of Denmark in 2001. He is married to director Katrine Philp.
Talib Rasmussen has previously worked with both Katrine Philp and Katrine Sahlstrøm. He received the Sleeping Bear award in 2012.
With support from you we can make this film happen and create awareness of the many false confessions and the reasons why they happen. Your support will be used as follows:
1. Urgent film shooting, covering the hunt for new evidence in Renay’s case: Travel $7,000; Stay and allowances $4,000; Equipment $3,000; Photographer $5,000; Edit for more fundraising $ 3,000.
2. False confession expert going through cases and detailing what is going on during an interrogation that leads to a false confession: Travel $3,000; Stay and allowances $1,000; Equipment $2,000; Photographer $2,000.
3. If we manage to raise even more, the funds will be allocated to the final shootings of the film, which includes one more trip to New York and filming in Denmark with a budget of $33,000.
Any further funding would be used for the postproduction of the film (editing, hard drives, sound design, music, technical support and delivery items).
Risks and challenges
When working with documentary, we are working with reality - and it is both the beauty and the challenge of documentary film making that reality can’t be tamed. So even though we have already shot a great deal of the material we need, we can't know exactly where our stories will take us or exactly where and when we can say 'it's a wrap'. Therefore the date of release can potentially be pushed back. We will make sure to let our backers know if this happens, to keep you all in the loop.
This being said, we are a team of experienced film makers, and are used to dealing with whatever challenges a documentary production might bring. And we already have support from broadcasters, funds and foundations.
In other words, we do not see any risk, that this documentary will not be finished, or that it will not reach the public. It will!
We hope that this kickstarter campaign besides securing us the finances we need, to finish this project, will create a network of dedicated people who, when the documentary is done, can help spreading the word about it, and thereby help meeting the last challenge: to make this story reach as wide as possible, and to make sure that this documentary gets the impact, we believe that it can have.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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