Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Framing Innocence

C-SPAN2 Book-TV just had a lecture by Lynn Powell on her 2010 book, Framing Innocence: A Mother's Photographs, a Prosecutor's Zeal, and a Small Town's Response. She tells this story:
In 1999 Cynthia Stewart, a mother, respected member of the community, and amateur photographer, was arrested and accused of child pornography, based on snapshots she took of her daughter in the shower. The fact that she had no intention of publishing or distributing the photos -— and had no prior record for this kind of activity -— did not dissuade the aggressive prosecutor. Powell, who lived in the same community and had a passing acquaintance with Stewart, chronicles in month-by-month detail Stewart’s battles to prove her innocence, and keep custody of her daughter. The story that unfolds is a fascinating cautionary tale of a criminal justice system both intent on finding criminals where none may exist and weighted against the poor and the powerless. Especially terrifying is the evidence Powell reveals that other moms, many single mothers, many in middle or lower incomes, have been similarly charged, and, in some cases, convicted for similarly innocent family photos. Powell is a facile writer, and her closeness to the material adds a subjective element to the story that makes it more immediate and compelling.
The only thing that saved her was that her community stood up for her.

The one negative review on Amazon says that the author and mother were naive about
how the criminal justice system works. I think that anyone is naive who does not recognize the evil in these CPS prosecutors.

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