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New art exhibit raises awareness on female wrongful convictions

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Posted at 8:53 PM, Mar 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-20 23:18:10-04

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — A recently opened exhibit shines a new light on those wrongfully punished.

Chagrin Arts, along with the Ohio Innocence Project, is taking a closer look through art how famous females in mythology found themselves vilified in their eras.

The exhibit by Judy Takács highlights familiar faces including Eve, Medusa, Pandora and Venus.

“There's a lot of women who are harshly punished, wrongfully punished, wrongfully incarcerated and punished in the eyes of history and legends by their stories,” Takács said.

A panel Sunday went deeper into the exhibit and how rarely wrongfully convicted women find themselves exonerated.

“We're long overdue for some conversations about systemic misogyny and the way we have treated women since the inception of the country,” Pierce Reed with the Ohio Innocence Project said.

Nationwide, Reed said of the more than 3,000 who have been exonerated since 1989, but less than 10% of those are women. It’s an ongoing issue that the Ohio Innocence Project, which has helped free 34 Ohioians since its inception in 2003, is trying to address.

“Within the next three months, every woman in one of Ohio's prisons will receive a letter from the Ohio Innocence Project asking if they are innocent,” Reed added.

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Dozens attended a panel Sunday taking a deep dive at wrongful convictions and their impact.

Among those also in attendance was Nancy Smith, who was recently exonerated in Lorain County.

Just last month, a Lorain County judge threw out charges against Smith nearly 30 years after she and Joseph Allen were wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting Lorain County Head Start students.

Prosecutors now say they did not believe any crime was actually committed.

Smith served 15 years in prison before being released in 2009, but says the damage done to her whole world lasts a lot longer than that.

“It was just unbelievable,” she said. “I might have been a free woman for 13 years, but I still have this burden on my shoulders that I've been carrying all this time. It doesn’t go away...One of the things that's so different about how women are wrongfully convicted is that in the male cases, there's almost always the real crime,” Reed explained. “In female cases, overwhelmingly there was no crime that was ever committed.”

This exhibit is slated to run through June 12 at Chagrin Arts at 88 Main Street in Chagrin Falls.