Academy award-nominated filmmaker Al Reinert (Apollo 13 and For All Mankind) profiles a universal worst nightmare scenario of a man wrongly convicted of murdering his wife in the film AN UNREAL DREAM: THE MICHAEL MORTON STORY. The film will air for the first time ever on television at 9:00pm ET and PT on Sunday, Dec. 8 on CNN/U.S.
“We’re thrilled to bring this story to CNN audiences, raising awareness that the price of wrongful convictions goes well beyond individual loss of freedom for the wrongfully incarcerated” said Al Reinert, director of AN UNREAL DREAM.
Reinert’s award-winning documentary explores the harrowing true tale of Michael Morton, who stood accused and was convicted of the brutal murder of his young wife, Christine, in front of their three-year-old son, in 1986. Morton always maintained his innocence and was never connected to the horrific crime by either witnesses or physical evidence. As Morton spent nearly 25 years in the Texas penal system, he eventually lost all contact with his son Eric, who was raised by his wife’s relatives.
Throughout the film, Michael and Eric movingly describe their evolving estrangement. Michael Morton and other inmates also detail the pain of incarceration that Morton suffered unjustly for more than two decades – the relentless indignities, hard labor, desperate loneliness, and ever-present danger from other inmates. Morton describes the toughest blow as the day he learned his son had requested to be adopted by Christine Morton’s sister and her husband.
Attorneys in the film discuss how Michael Morton’s case had attracted attention within the pro bono attorney community as early as 1992. The Innocence Project partnered with Houston lawyer John Raley in 2004, and eventually exonerated Morton through the testing of DNA evidence found near the scene of the crime. He was released from prison in late 2011.
The testing also sadly revealed that Christine Morton’s real murderer had killed again, two years after her death, creating additional victims of the original unjust conviction. Raley and The Innocence Project also revealed instances of improprieties from both the sheriff’s offices and the District Attorney’s office as Morton’s attorneys mounted his defense.
The film demonstrates that Morton’s story is not unique, though ultimately, the film explores Morton’s stirring strength and perseverance. His spiritual faith and extraordinary grace of forgiveness continue to inspire his former fellow inmates and his attorneys. Morton now advocates for legal reforms such as “open file” policies to reduce the probability of future wrongful convictions. More information on AN UNREAL DREAM may be found here: www.anunrealdream.com.
During the telecast, users can share their thoughts about the documentary, and ask questions about the Morton case and other cases in review by The Innocence Project via Twitter, by using the hashtag #AnUnrealDream. CNN Films, the filmmakers, attorney Barry Scheck (co-director of The Innocence Project), and others associated with this case and the broader issues it represents, will offer behind-the-scenes commentary and respond to users’ questions about the film and about The Innocence Project.
Also online, users may also view excerpts from the film, learn more about Michael Morton’s story, other cases of wrongful incarceration, a map of state-by-state exonerations, and more information about The Innocence Project by visiting www.CNN.com/anunrealdream.
“Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream.” – Justice Learned Hand, 1923, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
About CNN Films
CNN Films brings documentaries beyond the small screen by developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters. Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, oversee the acquisition strategy of documentaries for CNN Films. Malhotra manages the day-to-day operations of CNN Films, and works directly with filmmakers to develop original projects.
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