Race to Execution
to have its television premiere on PBS, Tuesday, March 27 at 10 PM
Film investigates America’s death penalty through the lives of two death row inmates—one white and one black—revealing—how race influences the legal process
(San Francisco, CA)— RACE TO EXECUTION is a powerful film that explores the deep and disturbing link between race and the death penalty in America. Following the stories of two Death Row inmates, Madison Hobley of Chicago, Illinois, and Robert Tarver of Russell County, Alabama, the film interweaves their compelling personal stories together to reveal how race affects our capital punishment system. The film will have its television premiere on the Emmy Award–winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, on Tuesday, March 27, at 10 PM (check local listings).
RACE TO EXECUTION reveals that race of both the victim and the accused deeply influences the legal process: from how a crime is investigated, to the deployment of police resources, to the interrogation and arrest of major suspects, to how media portrays the crime, and ultimately, jury selection and sentencing. Beyond DNA and beyond innocence, the shameful open secret of our capital punishment system is, and always has been, a matter of race.
In Chicago in 1987, Madison Hobley, a young medical technician married to his high school sweetheart, suffered a nightmarish end to his everyday dreams. When seven people, including Hobley‘s wife and son, died in an apartment house blaze, Hobley was accused of setting the fire. Hobley’s story illustrates the underbelly of race and capital punishment in Illinois — police brutality, falsified evidence and an incompetent trial defense counsel. Hobley was eventually exonerated by Governor George Ryan, who was convinced of the fallabilities of capital punishment, when he commuted the sentences of every inmate on the state’s death row in January 2003.
Robert Tarver, an African American man accused of murdering Hugh Kite, a white man, general store owner and mainstay of his rural Alabama community, was sentenced to death less than four months after the murder on September 15, 1984. The prosecutor at Tarver’s trial rejected all but one of the African Americans qualified for jury service. Eleven white Alabamans and one African American comprised Tarver’s “jury of his peers.” And as prosecutors have long known, a trial can turn on who is sitting in the jury box. Recent research indicates the extent to which the make-up of the jury affects sentencing: when five or more white males sit on a capital trial jury, there is a 70 percent chance of a death penalty outcome. If there are four or fewer white males, the chance of a death sentence is only 30 percent.
The conclusion of RACE TO EXECUTION leaves us with the exoneration of one man and the execution of another. In both cases, race is a factor impossible to avoid. “I no longer ask, do these people who committed these crimes deserve the death penalty,” states Bryan Stevenson, whose appeal on behalf of Tarver was denied because the racial bias in the jury selection was not raised by his defense in the original trial. “I ask, does society deserve to kill people, when they’re so unwilling to engage in an honest conversation about the impact of race.”
Outreach Campaign ITVS Community will support RACE TO EXECUTION with a variety of community outreach events and materials, in anticipation of its national broadcast on Independent Lens. Screenings and activities will take place in February. For more information on the campaign visit itvs.org/outreach/racetoexecution/.
Interactive Companion Website The RACE TO EXECUTION interactive companion website (pbs.org/racetoexecution) features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.
On-Air Participants David Baldus – is the Joseph B. Tye Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law, where he has taught courses on criminal law, federal criminal law, capital punishment, and statistical methods for lawyers.
William Bowers – is a research associate of the Capital Punishment Research Initiative, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SIGNA); Professor Bowers is the author of books on racial bias and other ills in capital punishment in the century before Furman and in the first decade of the post-Furman era: Legal Homicide: Death as Punishment in America 1864-1992.
Steven Bright – is president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and teaches at Harvard and Yale Law Schools.
Raymond Brown– is a former anchor at Court TV and host of the Emmy Award winning New Jersey Network program “Due Process”. Additionally, Mr. Brown is a partner in the law firm of Brown & Brown and a visiting professor and research scholar at Seton Hall University Law School.
Doug Gansler– is serving his second term as Montgomery County State’s Attorney. Currently, he is prosecuting the cases of John Muhammad and John Malvo, the two suspects involved in the sniper shootings in 2002.
Sam Harper – is a correspondent for the Ledger-Inquirer, and was closely involved with the Robert Tarver case.
Madison Hobley – Spending 16 years in prison, Madison Hobley was one of 14 African American men sentenced to death based on confessions — alleged or acknowledged — obtained by a group of Chicago police officers later shown to have engaged in systematic torture of suspects in criminal cases; he was exonerated by Governor Ryan in 2002.
Coty Kite – is the daughter of murder victim Hugh Kite, a general store owner and mainstay of his community in Russell County Alabama.
Andrea Lyon – Attorney of Madison Hobley, Andrea Lyon is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at DePaul University College of Law. She has tried over 130 homicide cases and defended over thirty potential capital cases at the trial level and has taken 18 through penalty phase, winning all 18.
Steve Mills – As a staff reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Steve Mills has written about the death penalty and miscarriages of justice in the Chicago area since 1994; he and fellow Chicago Tribune reporter, Ken Armstrong, have written several series on capital punishment.
William Moffit– a highly recognized criminal defense attorney, is a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and has taught on the faculty of the prestigious National College of Criminal Defense.
Marla Sandys – is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Indiana University. She writes in the areas of death qualification, attitudes toward capital punishment, and juror decision-making in capital cases.
Bryan Stevenson – Attorney of Robert Tarver, Bryan Stevenson is the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama and Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. He and his staff have been successful in overturning dozens of capital murder cases and death sentences where poor people have been unconstitutionally convicted or sentenced.
Nina Totenberg– is National Public Radio's award-winning legal affairs correspondent, where her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition; Totenberg's coverage of the Supreme Court and legal affairs has won her widespread recognition. Scott Turrow– is an attorney and the author of six best-selling novels and two non-fiction books. Mr. Turow, a practicing criminal defense lawyer, devotes a substantial part of his time to pro-bono matters.
About the Filmmakers Rachel Lyon (Director/Producer) is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker with significant experience in academia. She has directed several acclaimed documentaries, including, Mr. Dreyfuss Goes to Washington for the History Channel, Shadow Over Tibet for PBS and the Emmy-Award winner, Men Who Molest for PBS’ Frontline. Lyon has created over 60 documentaries for PBS, NBC, CNN, National Geographic, and the History Channel, among others. Lyon serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies at Queens College.
Jim Lopes (Co-Producer) Jim is an entertainment and media attorney. A Harvard graduate, he has experience in film, television and music. He was formerly an executive with a subsidiary of MCA-Universal – where he first worked with Ms. Lyon. Later, Jim served as General Counsel for CBS/Fox Video, licensing hundred of films. More recently, he has served as VP and Associate General Counsel for Reader’s Digest and its music, publishing and television divisions. Jim is currently producing a documentary on the Cape Verdean whaling families of New England.
Charles Ogletree (Narrator), Professor Ogletree has examined complex issues of the law and human rights not only in the classroom, but on the Internet, in the pages of prestigious law journals, and in the everyday world of the public defender in the courtroom and in public television forums where these issues can be dramatically revealed.
About Independent Lens Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10 PM on PBS. Hosted this season by Terrence Howard, the acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Further information about the series is available at pbs.org/independentlens. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series producer is Lois Vossen.
About ITVS The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10 PM on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting itvs.org. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.
About PBS PBS is a media enterprise that serves 354 public noncommercial television stations and reaches almost 90 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is a leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of other educational services. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (pbskids.org), continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.
About NBPC The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) is a non-profit national media arts organization committed to the presentation, funding, promotion, distribution and preservation of positive images of African Americans and the African Diaspora. Since 1990 NBPC has dispersed over six million dollars to independent filmmakers, whose works have provided several hundred hours of programming on the national PBS system. Its primary source of funding is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. NBPC supports insightful programs targeted for the national PBS schedule and present special projects online via its website at nbpc.tv.
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