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Ohio Innocence Project's Case a Winner at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

A documentary that followed the efforts of UC College of Law students to get a wrongfully convicted man released from prison took top honors out of about 100 entries at a leading documentary film festival.

Date: 2/20/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Other Contact: Sherry English
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-0060
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   "Conviction: The True Story of Clarence Elkins," a documentary about the life, wrongful conviction and eventual release of Clarence Elkins, this week won the 2007 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Award for Best Short Documentary.

The story features the work of University of Cincinnati College of Law Professor Mark Godsey and the law school’s Ohio Innocence Project. This team, through an analysis of DNA and testimony, led the charge to have Elkins released from prison after he was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering his mother-in-law and attacking his niece.

Melinda and Clarence Elkins with Ohio Innocence Project participants
Melinda and Clarence Elkins, along with UC law students who worked on the Elkins case and Mark Godsey.


The movie, directed by Mike West and Bill Ward, was a unanimous choice by the judges for the Best Short Documentary award out of about 100 other documentaries. Reviewers called the movie "an awesome documentary" and "in-depth look at a case, a justice system, and a life." The film festival, which concludes today in Missoula, Mont., is considered one of the world’s top documentary film festivals.

"Literally everyone was crying at the screening, that’s how much this film touched people," said the College of Law’s Godsey. "It’s a way to educate people about what happened in this case, and a way to do it in a beautiful form. The film told the story about all the pain that was involved in this case, and did it in a very effective way."

"The festival was wonderful – great people, warm atmosphere – and seeing the film move the audience to tears was an experience I’ll never forget," said West. West produced the film, along with Ward, Fred Steim and David Fortney. Executive producer for the film was Kurtis Productions.

A Summary of the Story

In a small town in Ohio, Melinda Elkins' mother is raped and murdered and her husband is arrested for the crime and sent to prison for life. Proving that police have the wrong man would take eight years, all of her money, and the only life she knew. Partly a meditation on the role of luck in the criminal justice system, the documentary chases a story too unbelievable if it weren't true.

The Big Sky Film Festival

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival includes three separate competition categories – Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short and the Big Sky Award. To be eligible for screening in a competitive category, films must be Montana Premieres and have not been broadcast on the Internet or television anywhere in the United States. Big Sky competition films can be any length but must be about the American West. The award for Best Documentary Short is given to one film up to 50 minutes in length.

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