by Dr. Mary
Colin Warner was incarcerated at age 18 for a crime he didn’t commit. After spending 21 years in prison for murder, his innocence was finally proven. Now, a movie depicting his story has won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Incarcerated at age-18
Who can fathom this injustice? Fifty-five-year-old Trinidadian Colin Warner was in that predicament, incarcerated at age 18 for murdering someone he had no connection with.
“I felt out of mind, out of place, out of body. I did not kill the victim. I did not know this body, why am I being arrested for killing the victim?” he asked in a recent interview with CNW.
The movie- Crown Heights
His experience is told in Crown Heights, a new movie directed by Matt Ruskin. The movie stars Lakeith Stanfield as Warner and Nnamdi Asomugha as Carl King, Warner’s best friend who is also from Trinidad.
The movie was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January, winning the Audience Award. It opens nationally on September 8. It’s distributed by Amazon Studios and IFC Films. It shows King’s relentless fight for justice for his friend who was released from Fishkill Correctional Facility, upstate New York, in 2001.
Both men went to school in Trinidad. King migrated to the United States first with Warner following three years later. They rekindled their friendship, attending Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn.
Life changed dramatically
Warner’s life changed dramatically in April 1980 when 16-year-old Mario Hamilton was killed on Flatbush Avenue. Warner was implicated by two 14-year-olds, one of whom was Hamilton’s brother, Martell.
While under police interrogation, the other teen, Thomas Charlemagne, fingered the Rastafarian Warner through a mugshot from a police book.
Ruskin was drawn to the story which made national headlines 37 years ago.
“I first heard Colin’s story on the radio show, This American Life. Anya Bourg (a producer at 60 Minutes) traced the course of events that unjustly sent Colin to prison. It was a story I couldn’t get out of my head. Colin not only survived unimaginable injustice but emerged from two decades of incarceration with his humanity and his dignity intact,” Ruskin said.
Kidnapped off the street of New York City
According to Warner, “This movie took 37 years from 1980 to 2017. I was kidnapped off the streets of New York at age-18. I was in a fight for my life with no training, no skills. I barely knew who I was. I would never admit to a crime that I didn’t commit that is why I spent 21 years in prison.”
At the time of his arrest, Warner had some run-ins with the law. “I was arrested on two prior occasions; one was for a 007 knife I didn’t know I could not carry, I paid a fine for that. The second arrest was for a handgun. I got three years probation for that,” he said.
Married while incarcerated
Today, Warner lives in Atlanta with his wife, who he married while incarcerated, and their children. Their first child died in a pool accident some years ago. He has dedicated his life to helping others who were wrongly incarcerated.
It is important for him that opponents of injustice see Crown Heights. “I hope this movie could energize any type of thinking that may have been halted or stopped. If you are touched by my story let it be the genesis for you to do something,” he said.