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Chestnut cracks cold cases

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IOL Vindicated

Morris Chestnut

Helen Herimbi

He was a star in ‘The Best Man’ movie, and now Morris Chestnut, (pictured), is the best man for a presenting gig.

Tyler Perry must not like Chestnut very much because in TP’s many, and mostly-black film casts, he hasn’t really used Chestnut.

But that doesn’t matter, because it looks like Chestnut keeps getting acting jobs – we last saw him for a short spell in ‘Think Like A Man’ – and now, he is the host of Vindicated, which premieres on Top TV’s Black Entertainment Television (BET) this week.

As the title suggests, this show is about righting wrongs. Presented by BET in partnership with The Innocence Project, ‘Vindicated’ looks at real-life stories where individuals have been wrongfully incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.

Through dramatisations, interviews and expert opinions, the audience will get to see just what went down in the trials – and before the trials – when it comes to some of these gravely serious alleged crimes.

Then the viewers will also get the chance to see how life after jail pans out.

Is there a stigma surrounding the wrongfully jailed people? How do their families react to the findings?

Do their communities take them back into the everyday rhythm of the neighbourhood?

All these questions are asked and answered in Vindicated, but the most important part of this show is allowing those wronged to tell their own stories.

It’s emotional, but Chestnut is passionate about this form of justice. He goes beyond the call of presenter because he is also a producer on the show.

Vindicated mostly focuses on exonerees who are black – well, it airs on the Black Entertainment Television channel, after all – chiefly because of the frisking incidents in America, as well as the murders of Trayvon Martin and other young black people and the extremely high percentage of black men who are in American jails as you read this.

It was also inspired by the Timothy Brian Cole case, which lead to Cole actually dying in prison 10 years ago before he could be set free for a crime he didn’t commit.

You might have seen the story on Oprah, but if you’re not familiar with it, Cole was the young black Texas University student who was wrongfully accused, tried and convicted of raping a white girl.

Needless to say he didn’t do it and the mound of evidence that was presented before an all-white jury was overlooked, even though, after spending 14 years in prison, he would later be found to be innocent.

‘Vindicated’ looks at cases that aren’t that severe but are eye-opening nonetheless.

‘Vindicated’ premieres on BET (Top TV Channel 190) on January 23 at 10.30pm.


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