CHANGE: Expanding the Concept of Justice in America
In 2012 United States Supreme Court held that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional when the offender is a juvenile. If granted, the offender will have a re-sentencing hearing.
Emma Restrepo, co-producer of the film, and in charge of reporting, in collaboration with Director Bernardo Morillo, filmed interviews with David Maldonado who is the first Latino juvenile lifer to be released after supreme court decisions.
While hanging out with a group of youngsters David and his brother Samuel had befriended that same day at Devil’s pool, in the outskirts of Philadelphia, a fight ensued between Samuel Maldonado, and 19-year-old Steve Monahan. David, in an attempt to protect his brother, stabbed Monahan who at the moment had pinned down Samuel. Steve Monahan Died. David and his brother were sentenced to life without parole. Because of recent supreme court decisions David, a minor when the crime was committed, was re-sentenced and released after 37 years. Changes in jurisprudence don’t benefit his brother Samuel who at the time of the crime had recently turned 18 years old. Samuel is still in prison.
David’s first-hand experience, invites us to think of the particularities of the cases involving each one of the 2800 minors sentenced to die in prison in the U.S.A. His awareness of the repercussions of poverty in his life, growing up in a dysfunctional family, being lost in a school system unable to protect him, and his own misgivings and issues of addiction are an example of self-reflection worth while listening to.
This initial interview with Maldonado propelled research spearheaded by Emma Restrepo resulting in a list of people who could contextualize David’s story beyond a tale of crime and punishment. The problems faced by our judicial system are so large and so many. We interviewed Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s District attorney and progressive advocate for justice reform. To have the D.A. himself describe those problems and confirm they are real gives us a powerful overview that underlines the importance of keeping the conversation moving. Documentaries like this play an important role in keeping the community at large informed.
Conversing with a Juvenile lifer, juvenile justice reform advocates, advocates for crime victims, ministry to communities at risk, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, we found one common thread: change.