Introduction & Overview of The Exonerated by Jessica Blank

Jessica Blank
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The Exonerated Summary & Study Guide Description

The Exonerated Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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The Exonerated, a play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, was first performed in Los Angeles by the Actors' Gang, on April 19, 2002, directed by the playwrights. The play premiered in New York City on October 10, 2002, at 45 Bleecker Theater, directed by Bob Balaban. It was first published in 2004.

The play tells the true story of five American men and one American woman who were convicted and sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. Between them these six people spent over one hundred years on death row before the criminal justice system finally corrected its errors and freed them.

Blank and Jensen constructed the play entirely out of interviews they conducted with the former prisoners and from various court documents and case files. The lines of the play spoken by the characters are the actual words used by the exonerated prisoners. They tell their stories plainly, and the result is a shocking exposure of police and prosecutorial misconduct that led to the conviction and condemnation of the innocent. The stories are mini-chronicles of lives destroyed and precious time wasted—one man spent twenty-two years on death row—but the play also has its moments of humor as well as being a testimony to the fact that hope and faith can survive in even the bleakest of situations.

The Exonerated was highly successful, running off-Broadway for two years and over six hundred performances. Celebrity actors, including Richard Dreyfuss, Jill Clayburgh, and many others, all accepted roles in the play at various times in its run. Illinois governor George Ryan attended a special performance of the play and later said it was a factor in his decision only a month later to grant clemency to all inmates of death row in Illinois.

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