Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


On the eve of his departure from office, George Ryan, longtime conservative Republican governor of Illinois and supporter of the death penalty, surprised the nation by commuting the sentences of 167 prisoners on Death Row to life imprisonment. Directors Katy Chevigny and Kirsten Johnson bring us directly into the debate and the legal process Ryan set in motion when a group of Northwestern University journalism students uncovered evidence exonerating the doomed Anthony Porter, undermining the credibility of the state's entire capital-justice system.

Deadline is human drama in its most distilled form. In the wake of DNA evidence and new testimony proving the innocence of 13 Illinois Death Row inmates, Ryan ordered clemency hearings for every prisoner awaiting execution. Chevigny and Johnson deliver it all—from the well-reasoned legal debates to the heart-wrenching testimony of family members of the victims as well as the condemned. Using astounding access to the hearings, prisoners on Death Row, and Governor Ryan, they deliver a measured sense of justice for all their subjects and astutely contextualize the debate with historical material.

Deadline contributes reason and passion to the ongoing debate about whether civilized nations should employ the ultimate punishment and how justly it is administered.

— Diane Weyermann

Screening Details

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