Join us on Thursday, December 5, 2019, 6:30pm, for an excerpt from Blind Injustice, a new opera developed in association with The Ohio Innocence Project. To RSVP (free) please click here. Presented in conjunction with The Pencil Is a Key: Drawings by Incarcerated Artists.
The Drawing Center hosts an excerpt from composer Scott Davenport Richards’ and librettist David Cote’s Blind Injustice, produced by Cincinnati Opera in 2019, followed by a conversation with opera subject Exoneree Nancy Smith and Director of the Ohio Innocence Project, Mark Godsey. This program is produced in partnership with the American Folk Art Museum.
Nancy Smith was a single mother of four and a Head Start school bus driving when she was falsely accused of picking up young preschool students and molesting them at her "boyfriend's house, " where they were allegedly molested all day, instead of driving them to school. Her case was part of the "Daycare Hysteria" cases in the 1990s, in which many across the country were wrongfully convicted for concocted daycare molestation at daycare centers funded by Head Start or otherwise had deep pockets that would afford the "victims" hefty settlements. Nancy's case represents one of the worst cases of ineffective representation in the annuls of wrongful conviction cases. Attendance records showed the children were at school and arrived on time on the day of the alleged molestation. In addition, the four young children, whose mothers' made the allegations, were never absent together on the same day during that time period. A bus aide was present on Nancy's bus every day to babysit the young children in the back of the bus, and could have testified that the stories were false. However, Nancy's attorney believed that the children changed their story so many times that Nancy would prevail, and did not call the bus aide as a witness or introduce any of the evidence that flatly disproved the state's case. The families of the children received seven-figure settlements.. After serving 15 years in prison for crimes that didn't happen, a judge reviewed the evidence anew and overturned her convictions, leading to her 2009 release.
Mark Godsey is a leading attorney, scholar and activist in the Innocence Movement. He is the cofounder and Director of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where he also serves as the Carmichael Professor of Law. The OIP is one of the most active and successful projects of its kind, and to date has freed 28 Ohioans on grounds of innocence, who together served more than 530 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Godsey is a frequent commentator on issues of wrongful convictions and criminal justice reform in the national media, and he has been featured on shows ranging from Dateline and Forensic Files to Dr. Phil and NPR’s All Things Considered. His career and work as a freedom fighter was recently the subject of a feature story in Time magazine. Active in the global expansion of the movement, Godsey is a founding board member of the European Innocence Network, and frequently consults with local projects on cases around the world. His bestselling book, Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions–a memoir of his journey from hard-nosed prosecutor to innocence champion–is considered a foundational text on the causes of wrongful conviction, and inspired an acclaimed opera, also entitled Blind Injustice.
Adria Caffaro is a mezzo-soprano originally hailing from Omaha, Nebraska. Currently based out of New York City, Caffaro has performed with Cincinnati Opera for the past three seasons, credits include; Ida, (Die Fledermaus), Mary O’Fallin (Morning Star), Kate Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Madeleine Audebert (Silent Night), as well as Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro) for Cincinnati Opera’s Outreach program.
David Cote is a playwright, librettist and arts journalist based in New York City. His operas include Blind Injustice with composer Scott Davenport Richards for Cincinnati Opera; Three Way with composer Robert Paterson (Nashville Opera and BAM); and The Scarlet Ibis (Prototype Festival) and Fade with Stefan Weisman. His plays include Otherland and Fear of Art. His reporting and reviews appear in American Theatre, What Should We Do?!, The Village Voice and elsewhere.
Michael Lewis is a pianist and collaborator who has been praised for his strong command of the instrument and his flexibility of style. Michael has collaborated with artists at Opera Philadelphia, Cincinnati Opera, Arizona Opera, Portland Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Aspen Summer Music Festival, Tri-Cities Opera, International Vocal Arts Institute, and Mill City Summer Opera. In 2019, Michael formed Aural Compass Projects, a non-profit music organization dedicated to performing new and less performed works focusing on social justice issues and featuring marginalized communities.
Scott Davenport Richards is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson and the Frederick Loewe awards. He is associate professor of musical theatre at Montclair State University’s Cali School of Music, and has been a member of the faculty at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program since 1997.
Image: Nancy Smith