The Seattle Times: These musicians use cardboard boxes, books and rocks to create music focusing on wrongfully convicted prisoners

  • Allen Otte (left) and John Lane of The Innocents. (Kin Lam Lam)

Recently, The National Registry of Exonerations released its annual report tracking U.S. state-by-state numbers of prisoners who won freedom in 2018 after their convictions were overturned.

The report says 151 people were found last year to have been wrongfully incarcerated. They spent an average of 10.9 years in prison before new DNA evidence or other information (including false confession, mistaken identity, official misconduct, etc.) led to their release.

The Registry’s data can be stunning (21,290 lost years for 2,432 individuals since 1989). Reopening the cases of potential exonerees is often performed by so-called “innocence organizations” linked to law schools (such as the acclaimed Innocence Project), public defenders and various nonprofits.

But between the statistics and legalese, it can sometimes be hard to remember the human dimension in wrongful convictions. Enter The Innocents.

Founded in 2006 by Allen Otte, now a professor emeritus who taught classical and contemporary percussion at the University of Cincinnati beginning in 1977, and John Lane, director of percussion studies at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, The Innocents is a performance-art and nontraditional music duo that attempts to bridge complex emotions of wrongful conviction to audience empathy.

Otte and Lane are bringing their performance piece, which has been known to draw tears even from longtime innocence advocates, to Seattle for two events in May. The first is a concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, of their Innocents program at the Chapel Performance Space. The following Thursday, May 16, Otte and Lane will lead a lecture-performance and discussion at 2:30 p.m. in Brechemin Auditorium, University of Washington Music Building. The UW Percussion Ensemble will participate in both performances. (continued)

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Featured on The Seattle Times | May 3, 2019