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Betty Anne Waters Becomes Lawyer to Free Brother from Prison

Betty Anne Waters, inspiration for the new movie Conviction, was a waitress who became a lawyer so she could overturn her brother's wrongful murder conviction.


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Betty Anne Waters and her brother Kenneth were best friends growing up. So when Kenneth was convicted to life in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit, she knew she had to help set him free.

Most people would try to hire a good lawyer, but Betty Anne didn’t have much money. So instead, she decided to put herself through college and law school and get her brother’s conviction overturned on her own.

Kenneth was convicted in 1983, and became so depressed that he attempted suicide. Betty Anne made him promise not to hurt himself again—and he agreed, on the condition that she would work to set him free.

Even though she was busy raising two sons, Betty Anne began taking night courses at a local community college, then finishing a four-year degree. As soon as she had a bachelor’s degree, she enrolled at the Roger Williams University School of Law. And with the help of legal non-profit The Innocence Project, she went to work going through the evidence against her brother and pulling it apart. In 2001, Kenneth’s conviction was overturned, and he was finally a free man.

The Waters family story, which has just been adapted in the new movie Conviction, starring Hilary Swank, isn’t entirely happy: During Betty Anne’s years of education and research, her marriage fell apart. And six months after Kenneth was set free, he lost his life after a head injury.

Still, Betty Anne doesn’t regret what she did for her brother. “Kenny had the best six months of his life,” she told the New York Times.

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