When you look back on your life, what are some of your happiest memories? For the more than 200 people freed with the help of the Innocence Project, those memories were stolen while they were trapped behind bars for crimes they did not commit, deprived of the small, everyday moments and big lifetime achievements that many people take for granted.
On average, exonerees were wrongly imprisoned for 16 years. After battling injustice, their lives restart the moment they’re released from prison.
The Innocence Project worked with director Ariel Ellis on the video, “Happiest Moments,” which focuses on the experiences of three Innocence Project clients — Rosa Jimenez, freed in 2021 after 17 years in prison; Termaine Hicks, exonerated in 2020 after 16 years in prison; and Huwe Burton, exonerated in 2019 after 20 years in prison. The moving video, which features photos and footage of Innocence Project clients and their families, gives a glimpse into the intergenerational and familial impact of wrongful incarceration and the joy that comes from regaining one’s freedom. The song “Innocence” was composed by Louis Weeks and vocals sung by Anesha Birchett.
“Meeting Rosa, Huwe, and Termaine, and hearing their stories directly was the most powerful experience of my life,” said director Ellis.
“They are three of the most inspiring human beings I’ve ever met. It’s an excruciating realization that many others are still experiencing so much loss behind bars or facing death for crimes they did not commit. There has never existed a project that has changed me more than this one.”
Orange Is the New Black actress Dascha Polanco, who became an Innocence Project Ambassador last year, narrates the video in Spanish and English. In addition to starring in the four-time Emmy-winning Netflix series that chronicles the experiences of women in prison, Ms. Polanco also starred in When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries about the Exonerated Five.