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Conviction drove her to go to law school to free her brother

The persistence of Betty Anne Waters helped exonerate her brother Kenneth in 2001 after he had served 18 years of a life imprisonment sentence for murder.

Betty Anne Waters, the inspiration for the new motion picture Conviction starring Hilary Swank, will deliver this year’s Tresolini Lecture. Titled “Convictions,” the free public talk will begin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, in the Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall. No tickets are required.

In 1983, Waters’ brother Kenneth was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a murder and robbery he swore he didn’t commit. When his appeals were shot down and funds for lawyers dwindled, Waters decided to go to college and later, law school to get the credentials necessary to prove her brother’s innocence.

In the Tresolini address, Waters will share the story of how her persistence, fueled by an unbending belief in Kenneth’s innocence, led to his exoneration in 2001.

“We are delighted to have Betty Anne Waters deliver the 2010 Tresolini Lecture in Law,” says Brian Pinaire, associate professor of political science and organizer of the annual lecture. “As anyone who is familiar with her story can tell you, the compassion and commitment that she demonstrated in working on behalf of her brother’s exoneration is an inspiration to us all and an example of how ordinary individuals can rise to accomplish extraordinary things.”

In 1980 Katharina Brow was murdered in her home in Ayer, Mass. Kenneth Waters was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1983 for first degree murder and armed robbery. Although his family stood by his side and never doubted his innocence, he lost every appeal.

A belated DNA test, and exoneration

In 1999, Betty Anne Waters contacted the Innocence Project, which was founded to help prisoners who could be proved innocent through DNA testing. With the Innocence Project’s help, the male DNA found at the scene was ultimately tested, and it was proved that it was not Kenneth’s DNA—nor was he the perpetrator. Kenneth was exonerated in 2001. Six months after his release he was killed in a fall.

Today, Waters lives in New England and continues working to free wrongfully convicted criminals and fighting for the rights of prison inmates.

The Rocco J. Tresolini Lectureship in Law was established in 1978 in memory of Rocco Tresolini (1920-1967). As professor and chair of the department of government, Tresolini contributed to the understanding of law and its relation to government. The endowed lectureship was made possible by the generosity of Lehigh’s Class of 1961, and other alumni and friends of the university.

“The late Professor Rocco Tresolini would be proud to see Waters addressing the audience in his honor—and we are proud to make the event possible, for the enjoyment and edification of students, faculty, staff, and members of the Lehigh Valley community,” says Pinaire.

Conviction, starring Hilary Swank, is in theaters now. For more information on the lecture, contact the political science department at 610-758-3339 or send an email to Pinaire.

 

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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