DETROIT (WWJ) – Crown Heights is just an unbelievable story. Unbelievable, because it’s just hard to fathom how the criminal justice system, which is supposed to fight for the innocent, could keep an innocent man behind bars for 21 years.
The story begins in the spring of 1980, when a teenager is shot and killed while hanging out with friends in Brooklyn, New York. Eighteen-year-old Colin Warner, a native of Trinidad, is wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to up to life in prison. For years, Warner maintains his innocence, and because he refuses to accept responsibility for a crime he didn’t commit, he is repeatedly denied parole. So, as the years pass by, Warner remains behind bars, and he tells his family and friends that he would rather die in prison.
As five, ten and 20 years go by, it’s looking more and more likely that Warner will ultimately take his last breath behind bars. But, his childhood friend, Carl ‘KC’ King, refuses to give up. He takes out loans and almost loses everything he has fighting for Warner’s freedom. It seems as if he’s getting nowhere until he becomes a legal courier to learn the court system and meets a lawyer who agrees to help with the case.
What kept KC from giving up and moving on with his life? The answer, as he put it, was because what happened to Warner could just as easily have happened to him. Joining KC in this exhausting, and seemingly unending, quest for justice is Antoinette, another of Warner’s childhood friends.
Even though this story began more than 30 years ago, what happened to Warner in Crown Heights is not unique and the story, in fact, still remains timely today. There have been a number of recent news stories about prisoners in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States winning their freedom after years of unjust incarceration. In Michigan, the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act went into effect in March to compensate people who spent time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
Crown Heights is a riveting account of Warner’s fight for justice. It is a movie that should not be ignored.
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Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA)
Detroit Film Critics Society (DFCS)
African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)