Advocacy Video: Clemency


jointly taught by professors Thomas Keenan & Brent Green (contact: [email protected] )

(Cross-listed with Film and Electronic Arts) State governors (and the President) in the United States possess a strange remnant of royal sovereignty: the power of executive clemency, by which they can pardon offenses or commute the sentences of people convicted of crimes. They can do this to correct injustices, show mercy, or undo disproportionate punishments. Clemency doesn’t just happen — it requires a lot of work on the part of the incarcerated person and his or her advocates. But there are almost no rules governing what a clemency appeal looks like, so there is significant room for creativity in how applicants present their cases. In this practical seminar we will join forces with a team of students at CUNY Law School and the human rights organization WITNESS to prepare short video presentations that will accompany a number of New York State clemency applications this fall. Proficiency with video shooting, editing, and an independent work ethic are important. Meetings with clemency applicants in prison are a central element of the class. This is an opportunity to work collaboratively with law students and faculty, to do hands-on human rights research and advocacy, and to create work that has real-life impact. The class will alternate between video production and the study of clemency and pardons, emotion and human rights, first-person narrative, and persuasion by visual means.This is an Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences (ELAS) class.

Selected videos created in past iterations of the course are available here.

On August 23, 2021, Gregory Mingo was granted a pardon by the Governor of New York State, and on April 7, 2023, Byron Russ had his sentence commuted by the Governor of New York State.

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