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‘These Stories Are So Powerful’: Roger Ross Williams On Netflix Docu-Series ‘The Innocence Files’

The Academy Award winner discusses his new docu-series and what he learned about the criminal justice system through this project.

(CBS Local)– In 2010, Roger Ross Williams became the first black director to ever win an Academy Award.

Williams is one of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood and he’s teamed up with two other great directors in Alex Gibney and Liz Garbus to create the new Netflix docu-series “The Innocence Files.” The nine part series takes a deep dive into the work of The Innocence Project, one of the leading organizations in helping to overturn wrongful convictions around the country. Williams directed the first three episodes of the series and he jumped at the opportunity to get involved with this project.

“It really started with Netflix. Netflix approached me, and Alex, and Liz and I’ve admired the work of The Innocence Project for a long time,” said Williams in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “They do incredible work and they’ve gotten hundreds of people out of jail and exonerated. I was shocked someone hadn’t done this already. These stories are so powerful and there’s a happy ending. It’s a very positive, emotional moment that happens at the end of these stories when someone is exonerated. You can’t beat that emotionally.”


Williams’ episodes focus on a case in Mississippi involving a man named Levon Brooks, who served 16 years in prison after he was convicted for raping and murdering a three-year-old girl. The Innocence Project proved it was a crime Brooks didn’t commit.

“It’s a place with a poor African American community and mostly everyone lives in trailers,” said Williams. “You can feel the legacy of slavery all around you. I remember the first day when I sat down to talk to some of the residents there, they were playing a card game and one of them said to me, ‘white people make the laws and we just try to stay out of the way.’ That’s the attitude there.”

“The Innocence Files” drops on Netflix Wednesday, April 15.

Watch all of DJ Sixsmith’s interviews from “The Sit-Down” series here.