The Movies: "American Violet" Film Opens Tonight, Tells the Story of the Hearne, Texas, Injustice

announcement from Samuel Goldwyn Films

On April 17, Samuel Goldwyn Films will release American Violet, a new film based on true events that occurred in the small Texas town of Hearne. The film examines how drug laws and enforcement practices target African-Americans, and, how the justice system uses threats and intimidation to steer them towards guilty pleas, regardless of their innocence or the evidence against them. As the film points out, more than 95% of criminal convictions in this country are the result of plea-bargains, not jury trials. While the film is based on a specific case, the story it represents is hardly unique or isolated, and, the film's release presents an exceptional opportunity to explore how the drug war has become the new Jim Crow.

American Violet is inspired by the real life story of Regina Kelly, an African-American, single mother of four girls who was arrested in 2000 in a military-style drug raid. The raid resulted in the arrest of nearly 15% of the town's young black male population for felony cocaine distribution.

Kelly was innocent. Her name, along with the names of many others arrested (nearly all African-American), were given to police by a single, highly unreliable informant with personal reasons to antagonize her. Despite Kelly's innocence, she was urged to plead guilty by her family and even her public defender so that she could return to her children and receive a minimal sentence. A felony conviction, however, would have resulted in the loss of her right to vote and the public assistance programs on which her family depended, not to mention the tainting of her personal reputation and her ability to obtain employment. She chose to maintain her plea of not guilty. The ACLU Drug Law Reform Project came on board to represent her.

In American Violet, Kelly's on-screen character is named Dee Roberts (played by newcomer Nicole Beharie) and the ACLU lawyer in the film is played by Tim Blake Nelson. Alfre Woodard, Charles Dutton, Will Patton, Michael O'Keefe and Xzibit also star. The town of Melody and certain other characters and events are fictitious.

Eventually, the charges against Kelly were dropped (as were the charges against most of the others arrested in the same drug raid due to the same informant's lack of credibility). Yet, she was separated from her children while she was incarcerated, shamed in her small community by being labeled a drug dealer, fired from her job, and had difficulty obtaining employment thereafter; in short, her life was torn apart due to her arrest and her time in jail. Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project represented her in a lawsuit against the county and the District Attorney (among other parties), for damages, which resulted in a settlement.

More importantly, the case resulted in a change in Texas law, whereby now, cases cannot be prosecuted based solely on the claims of a single informant.

Visit http://schedule.samuelgoldwynfilms.com/films/american+violet/ for a list of cities where the movie is opening.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Missed it by that much

Unless I'm mistaken, American Violet is about events in Hearne, Texas, some 400 miles from Tulia. The issues are the same: official corruption and intransigence, the despair of poverty, hypocritical puritanism and use of the Drug War to justify murderous racial discrimination.

See: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/localnews/columnists/jrag...

Well, sort of...

From the American Violet website:

"Much of the film was informed by thousands of pages of information provided on a range of stories by the ACLU among others. A variety of media reports and legal documents, including sworn testimony, depositions and affidavits, all of which can be found on the public record also helped us find authentic patterns and voices for our storytelling. Finally, taped interviews with community members who had experienced circumstances similar to those outlined in our work proved useful.

However, American Violet is not a documentary. It is a narrative feature film that is, as it says, based on true events. Some scenes and characters have been fictionalized for dramatic effect and have no relationship to the historical record. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and also to protect this film."

It seems the film is just that, a film -- but it is largely inspired by the what occurred in Tulia. There is another film about Tulia starring Halle Berry that is in development -- The Movie Insider has the latest: http://www.themovieinsider.com/m1527/tulia/.

I have the book and need to read it...

whatever happened to that sheriff anyway... fun to imagine he got buggered and shanked in prison... by someone he violated? Justice can be sweetly ironic... occasionally!

Funny, 'CUNT' is the 'captch validation' below and the murderous Judge Retchin immediately popped into my conciousness... fucking bitch... think I recently read something about a $3,000,000 settlement to Jonathans Magbies family.

Death is the ultimate price for speaking truth to power and Jonathan Magbies slow death was an avoidable crime that constantly reminds me of the ignorance, vindictiveness, and the warped compassion of those that place their faith and opinions over our civil rights.

Judge Retchin = Ignorant Drug War Criminal

Justice Should Be Served,
Green Panther Party

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