Interview With Betty Anne Waters: The Real Woman Behind Conviction

by Melissa Silverstein on October 15, 2010

in Advocacy

Betty Anne Waters (L) and Abra RiceConviction based on the life of Betty Anne Waters opens in limited release today.

Conviction is the film based on the true life story of Betty Anne Waters and her quest to get her wrongly convicted brother out of jail.

Betty Anne answered some questions about her life and the film.

Women and Hollywood: What does it mean to see your story up on the big screen?

Betty Anne Waters: It’s hard to explain.  Surreal is not the right word.

WaH: What’s the most important lesson that you can share with people about your experience?

BAW: I think to just keep doing something.  What got me through this is that I was never idle.  Except for a little depression now and then.  But keep going in the direction you want to go.  That’s what kept Kenny going and me going and eventually I ended up where I was supposed to be so that when things happened I was ready.

WaH: My impression is that Kenny would not have gotten out of jail had you not become a lawyer.

BAW: I don’t think so.  I don’t know.

WaH: How did you persevere for so many years?  You got a GED, went to college, got into law school, passed the bar.  These are things that are hard when you don’t have such high stakes.

BAW: It was Kenny.  If I failed what would have happened to Kenny.  I had a lot at stake.

WaH: People say throughout the movie that you gave up your life to do this for Kenny.  Do you feel that way?

BAW: Not at all.  I don’t think I gave up anything.  I didn’t.  Even with my kids.  I went to all their games, but I had books with me.  I had an agenda.  That was my life.

WaH: How did you handle the academics?  You had 2 kids and job.

BAW: There were hard times.  I remember one time when I was getting my undergrad degree from Rhode Island College.  First of all my undergrad degree in economics.  I’m like why did I do that?  I didn’t know.  I took an economics class and said I like that so I majored in it.  That was really hard.  Also, I remember that my son Ben was in I think first grade and he was sick and I had to do a paper and it was due that next day.  I remember my little boy with his head in my lap being sick and I am trying to hold him and type this paper at the same time.  That was one of the worst times.  Other than that – you just do it.

WaH: What about the moviemaking experience surprised you the most?

BAW: Hollywood is nothing like I expected.  I thought it would be all these divas.  It was nothing like that.  Every single person without exception that I have met in Hollywood I love them and they are fabulous and they are real people.  And they care about this movie and they care about what happened.  They weren’t just making a movie.  Honestly, I feel like they care so much about my family.  That’s what I am so amazed about.

WaH: What do you think the message of this film is for other women?

BAW: It might sound ridiculous but you can do whatever you want to do.  Just put one foot in front of the other and go in the direction you want to be in.  Always have that in mind.  My direction was always the same.  Every hurdle was just a hurdle.  I went one step at a time.  I didn’t often look at the big picture.  I looked at all the small pictures.

WaH: Are you still friends with Abra?

BAW: Oh my gosh she’s my best friend.  I love her so much.  I can call her at any given time and if I have a problem she will always help me.

WaH: You do not practice law?

BAW: No.  Abra does.  She is a public defender in New Haven, CT.

WaH: You have no desire to do that?

BAW: No, I love helping the Innocence Project.  I will always be a part of them because they are such a part of me.  I help with the New England Innocence Project and the NY one with Barry Scheck.  We try and change policies and speak against the death penalty and for preserving evidence and having the right DNA statutes.  A lot of states have them but they are not worth what they are written on.

WaH: Based on your experience with the Innocence Project, what’s the most important thing that needs to change?

BAW: First you have to look at the people who have been exonerated now there are 259.  You have to look at why they were wrongfully conviceted to begin with.  And if they look at that they will see the changes that need to be made.  There are some that are easy like the way lineups are conducted.  Also, everything should be videotaped.  And interrogations should be audio and videotaped.  Why not show everything that happened?  People are interrogated for 20 hours and they only record the last five minutes.  Why not record the whole thing?  Why can’t we see all of it.

Also with lineups, when you see photo lineups they show you 6 photos and people are more likely to pick the person who looks most like the perpetrator.  Why not show one photo at a time?  There is a lot of police misconduct like in my case.  And they are not accountable.  Why aren’t they?  The president has checks and balances but police officers don’t.  It’s a long story.  They have so much power over another person’s life.

Conviction starring Hilary Swank opens today.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Virginia Cruz January 19, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Hello. My name is Virginia Cruz. I am taken by this movie. I too am a high school drop- out. The father of my children has been sentenced to 137 years to life for a murder/and attempted murder, in which he is NOT guilty of. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. There is NO forensic evidence, nor is there ANY DNA. Eleven people testified at his trial. Out of those eleven witnesses, only (1) female, who is known as Jane Doe #1, testified against him pointing him out as the SHOOTER. Everyone else testified about different discriptions and different people as the SHOOTER. Some witnesses said that they didn’t even see a SHOOTER, but heard shots fired. The father of my kids is an innocent man who has been convicted of crimes in which he did not commit. At the time of his arrest, I felt hopeless and promised him that I will try to the death of me , to get him FREE, as he should be. Since this has taken place , I have taken matters into my own hands and am finishing up my Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. I also am going to attend Law School, pass the Bar Exam, and his case will be the first one I do. He so desperately needs help. Can you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE help us. This message is hoped to be eventually received by Betty Anne Waters. If not can you pleasse tell me how I can reach her. Thank you.

Isabel December 14, 2011 at 2:15 AM

If she has not answered you try to contact the Innocent Project. I am pretty sure someone will reach a had, Good luck.

Isabel December 14, 2011 at 2:16 AM

Sorry..its kind of late …I meant reach a hand to try to contact you and help you.

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