KENNEDY BREWER Exoneree, Custom Car Enthusiast
Kennedy Brewer is one of fourteen children —the next to youngest. He still lives close to many of his brothers and sisters, and just down the road from his mother, Annie Brewer, to whom he wrote frequently during his years at Parchman Penitentiary. Mr. Brewer played football in school —Noxubee High School has produced several stellar players over the years— but dropped out in the tenth grade when his father became too ill to work and his family needed the additional support. Mr. Brewer has a very tight knit family, and he enjoys spending time with them at gatherings, many of which occur, as they have for years, in the shade of his mother’s carport at her home in the Pilgrims’ Rest community of Noxubee County. One of the first things that Mr. Brewer did when he was released was get a job. Jobs are few and far between in Noxubee, but he found one, at a nearby poultry processing plant. Soon thereafter he bought a car —the best he could afford at the time— from his cousin. Mr. Brewer did what he could to improve its appearance, but the car had always been a triumph of functionality over beauty. Little he did would change that. After he received compensation from the State —thanks to a bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature the year after his release— he took some of the proceeds and purchased the car in the accompanying photo. It had significantly more potential, which he has maximized. On the day this photo was taken he turned up the car’s stereo system to a volume level that caused the cows in an adjoining pasture to run away.
LEVON BROOKS Exoneree, Artist
Levon Brooks was born in 1959 on a large farm in the eastern portion of Noxubee County, in an area known as X-Prairie. His parents both worked as laborers on the farm —his father in the dairy operation. Mr. Brooks spent much of his childhood in the nearby fields and streams, refining his love for hunting and fishing, his two lifelong passions. One of his fondest childhood memories, in fact, is of his father helping him to purchase his first rifle with money earned raising a hog. In the early 1980’s Mr. Brooks and his family moved into Macon, the county seat. Mr. Brooks went to school there and when he finished he started working. He has held a series of jobs, and was working two —one as a maintenance worker at a local school and the other as a nightclub helper and cook— when he was arrested and charged in 1990. In fact, he was at work when Courtney Smith, the victim in the case for which he was convicted, was abducted. During his incarceration Mr. Brooks relied on his family, particularly his mother, to see him through. He also spent many, many hours refining his skills as a self-taught artist. Many of his drawings he fashioned into greeting cards for fellow inmates and guards. Some of his artwork appears in the film. Several of the drawings have been included in a forthcoming collection of exoneree artwork, “Illustrated Truth”, published in conjunction with the 2011 Innocence Network Conference and with the National Underground Freedom Center Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. These days Mr. Brooks can usually be found either hunting or fishing —depending on the season— or getting ready to hunt and fish by caring for his bird dogs and equipment.
JOE YORK Director & Co-producer, Media and Documentary Projects Center
Joe York is an award-winning documentary filmmaker at the University of Mississippi’s Media & Documentary Projects Center. Over the last five years, York has also worked closely with the Southern Foodways Alliance, a non-profit organization based at the University’s Center for Southern Studies, where he has directed over 20 short films. His first feature documentary, Saving Willie Mae’s Scotch House
(2008), which chronicles the rebuilding of a New Orleans culinary landmark in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, aired widely on national PBS stations. Aside from his work in documentary film, York is also the author of With Signs Following: Photographs from the Southern Religious Roadside (University of Mississippi Press, 2007), and works regularly as a freelance photographer for ESPN.
TUCKER CARRINGTON Co-producer, Director, Mississippi Innocence Project
Tucker Carrington is the director of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He has worked as a criminal defense lawyer for his entire legal career, most of it as a public defender in Washington, D.C. In the fall of 2007, the University of Mississippi’s Robert C. Khayat School of Law established the Mississippi Innocence Project, and Carrington was hired as its first director. Since then the Project and the Law School’s clinic students have been involved in several of the State’s exonerations, as well as a series of groundbreaking legislative initiatives – including the State’s first post-conviction DNA testing statute and a statute that serves to compensate exonerees for their years of wrongful incarceration. In 2007 Carrington joined with lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York to help on Brewer’s case. He and the Project later served as counsel for Levon Brooks. He has written extensively on criminal justice issues, focusing particularly on issues surrounding wrongful convictions.
ANDY HARPER Executive Producer, Media and Documentary Projects Center
Andy Harper is the Director of the Media and Documentary Projects Center and an Instructional Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. Since its establishment in 2004, MDP has produced dozens of short films and three feature length documentaries. He holds a PhD in History from Northern Arizona University and teaches history and documentary classes.
CAROL MOCKBEE Managing Producer
Carol Mockbee is a native Mississippian. She grew up in Canton, Mississippi, and received her degree from Auburn University. Shortly thereafter, Carol moved to Newbern, Alabama, to join the Rural Studio, a branch of Auburn’s Architecture Department that devotes itself to designing and building projects for Newbern’s citizens, most of whom could never afford custom-designed homes and civic buildings. Carol became responsible for completing a project that had been envisioned, but never started: Subrosa Pantheon, a concrete structure buried into the ground, with a long entrance tunnel that opens up to a circular space with an open ceiling. Visitors sit on opposite sides of the bench, under the roses, to tell secrets into metal tubes that travel around the structure. As one person whispers into the tube, the other listens to the secret on the other side. The term “subrosa” derives from the ancient Romans who would hang roses from the ceiling to enforce confidentiality among those present. Just prior to joining the Mississippi Innocence Project, Carol produced Thacker Mountain Radio, an award-winning locally-produced radio show broadcast weekly from Oxford’s famous independent bookseller, Square Books.