Conviction [kuh nvikshuh n]: In law, a conviction is the verdict that results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime. Conviction is also a fixed or firm belief.

Julie Anne with sister Patty

Take the true life story of a neglected brother and sister who only had each other growing up through the foster care system, the brother convicted to life in prison without parole for murder, and the sister whose conviction in her brother’s innocence led to an eighteen year battle against all odds to overthrow the verdict. Sound like a Lifetime Movie of the week? Now add an all-star cast, the October 15th release date, and the race for Oscar is off!
Usually I find this kind of movie depressing and melodramatic. I was pleasantly surprised to find a deftly woven, touchingly human story expertly helmed by director Tony Goldwyn with flawed but lovable characters. Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) is the amusing, working class charmer with a temper that gets him into trouble. Convinced her brother is innocent and only behind bars for lack of good representation, sister Betty Anne (Hilary Swank), is the spunky-tough, determined little sister who pulls herself up by the bootstraps, earns her GED and puts herself through law school to defend her brother at the expense of her marriage and children. Betty Anne’s law school pal, Abra Rice (Minnie Driver) keeps both the humor and reality checks flowing while Juliette Lewis puts in an Oscar worthy cameo as Roseanna Perry, an ex girlfriend of Kenny’s, confronted by Betty Anne, Abra, and Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher) of the Innocence Project. Conviction is a powerfully uplifting film that is well worth seeing!
Patricia Friedman Halfon

The film begs you to examine the possibility that mistakes happen and innocent people do go to prison. If Massachusetts had been a death penalty state, Kenny Waters would have been dead long before his release. Had his sister not been relentless in her pursuit of the evidence that could clear his name, he would still be rotting away in prison. There are taught moments when even if Betty Anne doen’t question Kenny’s innocence, I did. Does that mean all the years and sacrifices would have been in vain?
I can’t help, but marvel over the strength of her love for her brother, and how a seemingly impossible circumstance could be the catalyst that set her life on such a drastically different path than it might have taken otherwise. The real Betty Anne still works with the Innocence Project today – helping wrongly convicted people overturn their sentences with the use of DNA evidence to prove they are innocent.
Julie, Patty, and Johnnie Friedman

I recognized the look in Kenny’s eyes when words couldn’t express his gratitude, and couldn’t help thinking of my own sister. As kids we were not close. My parents promised me a playmate to dress Barbie dolls and play checkers with. I felt gypped when instead, I got a baby sister that spit up all over me within seconds of meeting (I thought she was faulty merchandise and wanted my parents to exchange her for a sister that wasn’t already sick), then proceeded to take a huge portion of my parents’ attention away from me. I therefore, felt it was my duty to terrorize her for the majority of her childhood.
Daisy was almost as happy as I was to see Patty!

Eventually the gap between us dissipated with age, and as luck would have it, I was the one with “faulty merchandise.” I had a birth defect in my heart that was corrected with surgery earlier this year. My little sister left her own family to come look after me while I recuperated, something I never expected the devoted wife and mother would consider doing, but an act that taught me how strong our sibling bond is despite the rocky start. Believe me, I am most appreciative of having a sister today, and can’t thank her enough for being my caretaker and advocate when I needed her help the most. What would you, or have you been willing to do for your sister or brother?
Sisters: Patty Halfon and Julie Anne Rhodes
Patty also happens to be an astounding cook! I asked her to make me this yummy beef and mushroom barley soup last winter, although I’m sure she put extra onion in just to spite me for bullying her as a kid.

Beef & Mushroom Barley Soup

Servings: 8

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds short ribs of beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts of beef broth
1 28 oz can can fire roasted diced tomatoes1 bay leaf
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups mushroom blend, re-hydrated (reserving liquid for the soup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1). Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef short ribs with salt and pepper, and brown in batches. Set aside on a foil tented platter.

2). Add remaining olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, red pepper, and garlic. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add beef back in, cooking an additional 2 minutes.

3). Add beef broth, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, pearl barley, mushrooms, and reserved mushroom liquid to the soup. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasoning to taste, and serve hot.

Serving Suggestions:This is a robustly filling soup on it’s own, but you could serve with freshly baked crusty rolls or biscuits.

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