A film based on the wrongful conviction of a Brooklyn man will premiere this week at the Independent Film Center in Manhattan.
Crown Heights depicts the plight of exoneree Collin Warner, who spent more than two decades in prison for a 1980 murder he did not commit.
Warner was arrested in connection with the murder of 16-year-old Mario Hamilton after two witnesses identified him as the perpetrator. The witnesses, ages 14 and 15 respectively, were interrogated for six hours with no guardian present before making the identification based on a single photo of Warner.
One witness told police that Warner stepped out of a car driven by 15-year-old Norman Simmonds and shot Hamilton. At the trial, the eyewitness changed his story, saying Simmonds alone committed the crime. A mistrial was declared but Warner and Simmonds were tried again and convicted in 1982.
Carl King, a childhood friend of Warner’s, believed in his innocence and advocated on his behalf, locating witnesses who could testify that he was not at the scene of the crime. King brought Warner’s case to the attention of attorney William Robedee, who secured an affidavit from one witness, saying police pressured him to implicate Warner in the shooting.
At a deposition, Simmonds testified that he committed the crime on his own. Robedee filed a motion to vacate Warner’s conviction, which was granted on January 31, 2001. Warner was released the following day.
Crown Heights is adapted from a 2005 episode of This American Life and debuted at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The film opens Friday at 7:30 with a special appearance by director Matt Ruskin.