Levon and Kennedy: Mississippi Innocence Project

Photographs by Isabelle Armand
Text by Tucker Carrington, Director of the George C. Cochran Innocence Project

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Trim Size: 11 x 9-2/3
Page Count: 112
ISBN: 9781576878842

Two African American men from poor, rural Mississippi wrongfully convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. Lost years of their lives spent in jail and finally released a decade a half later thanks to the Innocence Project and DNA testing. This is their life for all to see.

In the early 1990s in a small disadvantaged community in rural Mississippi, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were wrongfully convicted of murder. Levon, despite an alibi, was sentenced to life for the murder and rape of a toddler, and was imprisoned for 18 years. A few years later Kennedy was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of another little girl. He was incarcerated for 15 years. In 2008 they were exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project and DNA testing, which led to a single real perpetrator.

The original investigation was botched by police and led by a prosecutor whose main effort was to imprison as many African Americans as he could. He routinely relied on fraudulent experts, most notably a pathologist who was not board-certified yet performed up to 1,200 autopsies a year while the National Association of Medical Examiners sets the yearly average at 250. The pathologist worked with a dental expert who testified that in both cases multiple bite marks covered the bodies and matched the defendants’ teeth impressions. It was later proven that there was not a single bite mark on either of the victims.

In 2012, photographer Isabelle Armand came across an article about the cases. Such corruption seemed unbelievable. How, why, and where could this happen? How does one cope with wrongful conviction? For the next five years, she spent several weeks each year documenting Levon, Kennedy, their families and their environment. This intimate photographic essay, akin to looking in a mirror, puts faces on the victims of wrongful convictions. It raises consciousness, challenges popular perceptions about poverty, inequality in our criminal justice system, and further demands that America confront itself on these fundamental issues of society.

Isabelle Armand worked with fashion photographers in her native Paris and in New York City, where she has lived and worked since the 1980s. Eventually Armand’s predilection for art drew her away from the fashion industry. She assumed the position of U.S. editor for the French magazine Connaissance des Arts, in whose pages her own photographic portraits of contemporary artists appeared. After a productive stint as editor, Armand devoted herself to a full-time career in freelance photography. Concentrating on black-and-white film portraiture and documentaries, primarily in a 6 x 7 medium format, Armand’s highly original works can be found not only in private collections, but also in museum collections. In addition, they have been featured both in national and international publications.

Professor Tucker Carrington is the founding director of the George C. Cochran Innocence Project (formerly the Mississippi Innocence Project) and Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law. The clinic’s mission is to identify, investigate and litigate actual claims of innocence by Mississippi prisoners, as well as advocate for systemic criminal justice reform. Prior to coming to Ole Miss, Professor Carrington was an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown Law Center, a trial and supervising attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and a visiting clinical professor at Georgetown. Professor

Carrington writes frequently about criminal justice issues, including wrongful convictions and legal ethics. His work has appeared in The Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social ChangeThe Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, and the Mississippi Law Journal.

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