World premiere of the movie "The Gathering"
"The Gathering" follows death row exonerees at an annual gathering of Witness to Innocence, the nation’s only national death penalty abolition organization composed of and led by exonerated death row survivors. The film captures their voices and the power of their stories as well as the resilience of their family and friends.
"We saw hugs, tears and smiles. We saw many women and men, from all backgrounds, deeply moved to hear the stories of death row exonerees. They personify our ideas, our combat against the death penalty", wrote the Delegation of the European Union, who hosted the event with the French embassy, on its facebook account.
Following the film, exonerees, advocates, and diplomats participated in a discussion about the death penalty the the U.S. and around the world, moderated by Elizabeth Zitrin, President of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty. Among the panelists were Micki Dickoff, Filmmaker, Nate Fields, exonerated death row survivor from Illinois and Board Chair of Witness to Innocence, Magdaleno Rose Avila, Executive director, Witness to Innocence, Debra Milke, exonerated death row survivor from Arizona, Caroline Vicini, Deputy-Chief of Mission of the EU Delegation to the United States.
On Witness to Innocence
Witness to Innocence (WTI) was founded in 2003 by Sister Helen Prejean, internationally renowned anti-death penalty activist, author, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and Ray Krone, an exonerated death row survivor from Arizona who was freed due to DNA evidence. WTI is the nation’s only national death penalty abolition organization composed of and led by exonerated death row survivors.
On the documentary
Once a year the exoneree members of WTI and their loved ones come together for three days of peer support, strategy and a commitment to end the death penalty in the United States. WTI calls this convention "the Gathering", and there is no other event as important as this one to the exoneree members and their loved ones.
For three days exonerees have an opportunity for healing as they engage with other death row survivors through peer support and solidarity. The suffering of a wrongful conviction of death takes an enormous toll on the exonerees, and WTI is the only organization that provides this type of support in the country. The injustice suffered by these courageous men and women compels them to be warriors against the death penalty.
Filmmaker Micki Dickoff and photographer Roni Ziemba captured the voices and power of the exonerees in this 24-mn documentary whose World Premiere took place during this event jointly organized by the Delegation of the European Union to the U.S. and the Embassy of France in the U.S. The film tells the story of WTI death row survivors and their families.
On the filmmaker
Emmy award-winning filmmaker Micki Dickoff has made social justice films for four decades. Her films have addressed AIDS, human rights, racism, poverty, the justice system and death penalty.
Micki’s critically acclaimed work has screened at festivals worldwide, on national and international television and in theaters. Her films include documentaries Neshoba: The Price of Freedom and Too Little, Too Late, and dramas Mother, Mother and In the Blink of an Eye.
Micki participated in the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, the American Documentary Showcase, and was nominated for the Humanitas Prize for her civil rights film, Neshoba.
On exonerees who spoke in the panel
Nathson "Nate" Fields spent 20 years in prison in Illinois, including 11 years on death row, for a murder he did not commit. The judge in Nate’s case took a $10,000 bribe to rig the outcome of the trial. The judge went to prison for 13 years and Nate’s conviction was overturned when the corruption was uncovered. Nate is now serving as the Board Chairman of Witness to Innocence.
Debra Milke spent 23 years on death row in Arizona after being wrongfully convicted of killing her 4-year old son. She was released from prison in 2013 and an Arizona state appeals court ordered the dismissal of murder charges against her in 2014. Debra is one of two female exonerated death row survivors in the United States and she is an active member of Witness to Innocence.