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A family with a lot to celebrate!

Thanks to all who came to help welcome John Smith home and make his Exoneration Party a success!

The Grand Entrance.

John made his grand entrance shortly after everyone had arrived, and guests greeted him with a cheerful round of applause.  His grandmother, who celebrated her 80th birthday two days before, was by his side dressed in a lovely navy blue suit that she picked out especially for the occasion.  The celebration was replete with lawyers, activists, journalists and others passionate about issues related to wrongful convictions. Filmmaker Court Crandall (director of “Free Throw”) and his crew were also present to capture the joyous event.

Court Crandall and his crew, doing their best to go unnoticed

Innocence Matters founder Deirdre O’Connor made a few brief remarks related to the Innocence Matters victory and expressed gratitude to those who have donated both time and money to the cause.  Board member Jessica Farris, who worked extensively on John’s case as an intern, also spoke briefly about her experience at Innocence Matters.  And, of course, the guest of honor, John, took the opportunity to show his appreciation for all the hard work and effort of those who played a role in bringing his innocence to light.   “The past six weeks have been the best six weeks of my life!  I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate all you have done.”

Since John’s grandmother is the most important person in his life, Innocence Matters made a point to honor her.   A highlight of the event was when guests surprised John and his grandmother by serenading her with “Happy Birthday” and bringing out a large cake complete with eight birthday candles each representing every decade of her life.

John and party guests enjoyed the magnificent view from the roof and the ground

The intimate gathering was successful due to the generosity and selflessness of some many.  A special thanks to hostesses Kristina and her grandmother Debra for opening their lovely home for this occasion and to the Innocence Matters volunteers who make all things happen!  We also extend our heartfelt appreciation to the following local businesses that provided beverages and a variety of culinary delights for our guests to enjoy:

  • Bristol Farms, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
  • Chicken Maison, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
  • Homegirl Café, Los Angeles, CA
  • Fanoos, Torrance, CA
  • Fresh and Easy, Harbor City, CA
  • Mayer’s Bakery, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
  • The Appetizer, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
  • Palace Surplus Inc., Inglewood, CA

In addition, guests showered John with gifts and donations including clothing, books, movie tickets, and gift certificates to name a few.

This pile of letters is likely filled with many more John Smiths

Since John’s exoneration, Innocence Matters has received over 400 requests for help from people in situations similar to John’s. Your generous donations will enable us to bring other innocent people home.  Those who are passionate about our mission and would like to donate your time and/or expertise are encouraged to contact us!

More about John’s case, the party and the plight of the innocent can be found in Our Weekly’s Guilty until proven . . . by Josanta Gray