Accused of a Crime You Didn't Commit? Make a Movie

"I think the film had a lot to do with finding new evidence," Berlinger said. "The films have been instrumental in finding flaws with the case. There is a huge, direct link with what has happened with the new evidence, and the making of these films. The money and support, needed to re-examine the case, came from interest and support for the movie."

The new evidence, however, is far from an exoneration, a fact that weighs heavily on the director.

"I firmly believe that these films have kept these guys alive because of all the attention," Berlinger said. "At this point, I don't think the state of Arkansas would have the courage to execute [him]."

"One of my biggest influences for being a filmmaker was 'The Thin Blue Line,'" said Berlinger. "That movie got a guy out of jail in a reasonable amount of time. I am still utterly dumbfounded that the first movie didn't create the same result."

Ofra Bikel, a producer for the PBS award-winning series "Frontline," has worked on documentaries that have led to the exoneration of 14 people.

"Innocence Lost," a "Frontline" documentary, follows the case of Bob Kelly, who, along with six other defendants, was accused of sexually abusing 29 children at a day-care center in Edenton, N.C. Eight years and three "Frontline" programs later, all of the charges against Kelly were dropped.

"We didn't have confidential informers, we weren't rifling through people's drawers in the dead of night. We just looked at the evidence," said Bikel. "All anyone had to do was look, and they would have realized something was wrong."

Part of the reasons these documentaries resonate with viewers, Bikel said, is because of the power of film.

"When you read there are 100,000 people dying of hunger, you have a very different reaction than when you see, with your own eyes, just two of those children dying."

The Internet

Making a film is costly, but increasingly, the families and advocates of the accused are turning to the Internet to garner support, by making small films, and posting them to sites like YouTube.

"We have seen a real increase in people turning to YouTube to get these stories out into the public," said Ferrero.

One year ago this month, Eric Volz, a 27-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native and magazine editor, was accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend inside the clothing store she owned in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Volz's family and lawyers insist he was not even in the same city, and argue that anti-American sentiment led to his conviction and 30-year sentence.

A short video posted to YouTube in March, which ends with Volz's parents finding out he has been convicted, has been viewed more than 156,000 times. That figure has buoyed the family's hopes that, as people learn about Volz, his chances of being released increase.

"We'd be lost at this point if we didn't have the Internet," said Volz's stepfather, Dane Anthony. "It would be incredibly difficult to garner support in the way we've been able to without the Internet."

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