The Past is Never Dead

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


A morally complex documentary about the wrongful conviction of David Robinson and his 17-year struggle to prove his innocence.


The film is an emotional and morally complex documentary about the wrongful conviction of David Robinson and his 17-year struggle to prove his innocence. David’s freestanding claim of actual innocence is national in scope that will set U.S. legal precedent on habeas corpus and due process. His case is now before the Missouri Supreme Court.

David was arrested for murder in the fall of 2000, and with testimony from two suspect criminal informants he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. There was no evidence, DNA, or confession, and he had multiple alibis. As the years passed, the informants recanted under oath, claiming police coercion, and the true killer confessed on audiotape and then committed suicide. Yet David is still in prison. The film presents the judicial system through the lens of Sikeston, Missouri, a small southern cotton town near the Mississippi River.


The commitment to make the film came after an embarrassing moment during my first meeting with David’s pro bono lawyers at the Bryan Cave Law Firm in St. Louis. I had read, thoroughly, the State’s argument for denial, but since it was not making any sense, I felt I must have misunderstood. When I shared my confusion they laughed and said that I understood it completely. They told me that innocence, by itself (re: a “freestanding claim of actual innocence”), is maybe the hardest case to make for exoneration, and not because of the difficultly in proving innocence, but that once someone has been “fairly” convicted by a jury, changes (recantations) during post-conviction testimony are usually discounted by judges. Liars lie, especially snitches and jailhouse informants, and once proven as liars, their recanted testimony is suspect. Thus judges default to the original jury decision.

The perceived issue in granting exoneration under the claim of actual innocence is that it opens the door to admitting the jury trial system that uses police snitches (and paid informants–either by cash or promises) has systemic flaws.


Steve E. Turner - Producer/Director/DP

Steve has been a full-time freelance director and cinematographer of regional and national TV commercials for the past 13 years. Before entering the film industry he spent many years in upper management with Barnes & Noble, Inc.

But here’s the real deal … Steve has both landed and jumped out of a plane, water-skied down the middle of the Mississippi River (not recommended), been naked in two different stage plays (recommended), can ride a bicycle 100 miles at one go, and has been knocked unconscious four times. He’s never caused a car accident or broken a bone, but he’s had a stupid number of speeding tickets. He’s been desperately lost in Mexico and Venezuela; and while he wishes he loved the big city enough to live there, he’d rather spend his free time inside a book on his country porch.


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