In 1989 fifteen-year-old Angela Correa went missing in Peekskill, New York. She turned up dead, having been raped and murdered. A suspect, classmate Jeffrey Deskovic, was quickly taken into custody and convicted. Conviction is the story of the wrongfully accused Deskovic and his journey through the judicial system, prison, and, finally, exoneration. As audiences are given a front-row seat to Deskovic’s story, they learn of the horrific truths of the prison system in America.
Stories like his appear to be popping up more and more recently. Brian Banks, Walter “Johnny D” McMillian, and Archie Williams have opened the world’s eyes to the horrific mistakes that can occur within the American judicial system. Deskovic is just the most recent to have a film about him and attempt to make the world know that there is a need for real reform. Under the watchful eye of director Jia Wertz, the narrative provides audiences with a truly eye-opening testimony about the events that unfolded in 1989.
This story is interesting and insightful, but it quickly takes a turn from Wertz trying to tell this story to Deskovic attempting to dismantle the prison system. Conviction seemingly loses its way in just a short amount of time and struggles to stay on task and focus on what seems to be the primary motive behind the film, Deskovic’s false imprisonment.
“…the story of the wrongfully accused Deskovic and his journey through the judicial system…”
I sympathize with the difficulties he’s faced, but as the tone of this short documentary changes, so does the viewer’s mood. I struggle to appreciate that much of Conviction veers from the advertised topic and focuses on bashing the prison system in the United States. The story itself is enticing and provides enough drama to keep audiences engaged. There is little to no need for Deskovic to focus so much on the prison system, as this seems more appropriate for another time. I am certainly not saying that the prison system does not need to be reformed, but the fact that Wertz and Deskovic attempt to shove this down the audience’s throat makes it difficult to swallow.
The opening moments of Conviction intrigued me as Deskovic’s story was something that the world needed to be made aware of. His story alone is eye-opening to the difficulties and faults that lie within the American judicial system, and audiences understand that some reform is necessary. However, as Deskovic and Wertz aggressively shove the terror of prisons down your throat, one must reevaluate the purpose of the film. It seems to become less about the fact that, despite being innocent, Deksovic was incarcerated for sixteen years and more about the issues he and Wertz have with prisons. As previously mentioned, I think this narrative has a time and a place, but neither that time nor place is within Conviction.
If Conviction stuck to the terrifying story of Deskovic’s incarceration, liberation, and rise through law school, it could have met its potential. It could have elegantly presented the idea that even when the odds are stacked against you, there is a way to persevere. As the tone changes, the film loses its luster, and I struggled to appreciate what Wertz and Deskovic are trying to accomplish. The anticipation of Deskovic’s story is never met, and Conviction ultimately falls short of expectations.
"…aggressively shoves the terror of prisons down your throat..."