At least 20,000 people are in jail right now for crimes they never committed. I know this because I am friends with one who spent 10 years in a maximum-security prison for a murder he never committed.
Ryan Fergusons' story was so compelling, so heart-wrenching and so insightful to the broader risk presented when human ambition and the need for certainty at all costs prevails over the truth and lives of those who are vulnerable -- that I produced my first feature film about it Dream/Killer with my friends Andrew Jenks and Chip Rosenbloom.
In this instance a teenage boy was accused of committing a heinous murder that had gone unsolved for two years in a small town in Missouri. Ryan's initial accuser was a friend who had blacked out from drinking the night of the murder and had no recollection of how had spent that evening.
Police and prosecutors, desperate for certainty in order to put a small town at ease and advance their careers, managed to convince Ryan's friend that during his black out he and Ryan had committed the murder two years prior.
There was no physical evidence that suggested this was the case -- and the only two eyewitnesses stated that neither Ryan nor his friend were the men they saw the night of the murder.
Yet certainty and ambition was clearly chosen over truth and life as they convicted both of them for a crime they never committed.
Dream/Killer which we premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, may be the most extreme example, but few things terrify humans more than managing their own uncertainty and ambition -- and the price exacted on others by our inability to deal with this fear has at least 20,000 people in jail today for no reason.