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Levon and Kennedy
Mississippi Innocence Project
Table of Contents
About The Book
In the early 1990s in a small disadvantaged community in rural Mississippi, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were wrongfully convicted in separate trials of capital murder. Brooks, despite an alibi, was sentenced to life and was imprisoned for 18 years. A few years later Brewer was convicted and sentenced to death. He was incarcerated for 15. In 2008 the Innocence Project in New York exonerated both men. Vanessa Potkin, longtime attorney at the Innocence Project, along with co-founder of the Innocence Project, Peter Neufeld, spent years investigating the two cases, and discovered a link between them that subsequent DNA testing substantiated. The results of that testing led authorities to the real perpetrator who was responsible for both murders and then to the exonerations of Brooks and Brewer. Without the work of the Innocence Project, Potkin, Neufeld, and a host of others, these photographs-of lives lost, forgotten, and then regained-would not have been possible. The photographs' poignance is made all the more powerful as one contemplates their stark, deeply felt beauty against the haunting realization that they were almost never able to be made or seen at all.
The evidence against Brooks and Brewer consisted primarily of bite mark matching evidence. A prosecution expert testified that in both cases multiple bite marks covered the victims' bodies and matched the defendants' teeth impressions. A group of experts retained by the Innocence Project later determined that the marks were not bite marks at all. As a forensic discipline, bite mark matching has come under serious criticism in recent years and led to the exoneration of multiple other prisoners. This same prosecution expert testified not only in Brooks's and Brewer's cases, but a host of others in Mississippi and the region. The extent of the damage is still unknown.
In 2012, photographer Isabelle Armand came across an article about these two cases. Such a scenario seemed unbelievable. How, why, and where could this happen? How does one cope with wrongful conviction? For the next five years, she spent several weeks each year documenting Brooks, Brewer, their families and their environment. This intimate photographic essay, akin to looking in a mirror, puts faces on the victims of wrongful convictions. It seeks to raise consciousness, challenge popular perceptions about poverty and inequality in our criminal justice system, and demands that we confront these critical issues.
- Publisher: powerHouse Books (March 27, 2018)
- Length: 112 pages
- ISBN13: 9781576878842
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Raves and Reviews
"It's a dramatic story of justice and injustice, but Armand's book examines much more."
– Daily Beast
"The black-and-white images stand out for the beauty of rural Mississippi, the poverty of the two clans, who live mainly in trailers, and the indomitable spirit of the men-who had, almost literally, come back from the dead."
– The Economist
"Her images are at once heartbreaking and full of hope-photographs that might never have been taken of change, of opportunity, but also of reality. They put faces to the faults in our criminal justice system, to the inequality that still exists in America, and to the necessity of questioning our biases. They make us reconsider what we take for granted."
"Serves as a corrective, offering us a window into an overlooked population."
– Art in America
As seen in: Lemuria, Mississippi Today, NPPA, F-Stop
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