Community Classroom

Sunday, October 13 at 1 PM / FREE

Theme: Wrongful Convictions

The greatest crime of all in a civilized society is an unjust conviction. It is truly a scandal that reflects unfavorably on all participants in the criminal justice system.

– The Appellate Division, First Department, in People v. Ramos, 201 A.D.2d 78 (1994)

In a legal system that emphasizes and rewards convictions, mistaken punishment of innocent defendants is unacceptably common. Resulting from erroneous eyewitnesses, incorrectly managed evidence, false confessions extracted under pressure, and dishonest informants, wrongful convictions disproportionately affect black defendants. The growing number of DNA exonerations has illuminated the breadth of the problem, and excellent work is being done to correct this injustice.

We invite concerned citizens to learn more about wrongful convictions from a panel of speakers who are dedicated to making the legal system more fair and effective for all.

Today’s panel will be anchored by Pete Fiorillo, a retired investigator for NY County DAs Hogan and Morgantheau, joined by other experts and activists. These days Fiorillo devotes much of his time looking into wrongful conviction cases and coordinating with attorneys to form effective defense teams. He is currently focused on a case involving George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt, who have been in NYS prisons for more than 20 years for a crime, he believes, they did not commit. After a serious investigation, a major NYC law firm has now agreed to take the case pro bono.

Members of the defendant’s families will be in attendance and will speak about the impact these cases have on families and communities, revealing the hardships and the grit involved in fighting for justice for their loved ones.


Caffe Lena Community Classroom features presentations by people with deep knowledge of a civic issue, with ample opportunity provided for audience questions, ideas, challenges and personal stories. The goal is to catalyze fresh thinking through conversation that is respectful, deep, empowering and unique. As Caffe Lena has long provided a stage where the stories of all people are honored, this program builds on the venue’s folk heritage with an understanding of real life struggle in today’s world.


The curator and sponsor of this series is In Our Name Initiative, an organization dedicated to civic learning and legislative action for social, economic and criminal justice matters. In Our Name is a national thought and training organization dedicated to the work of reconciling victims and offenders and finding more constructive ways to deal with crime and punishment.

MLK Saratoga shares Dr. King’s vision of peace and justice for all. They work toward this vision by promoting racial, social, economic, and climate justice. They use Performance, the Arts and Dialogue to create new ways of understanding and to build a more unified, inclusive community that is truly safe and just.