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Documentary by John Dean ’76 Tells Story of an Innocent Man

Recent headlines out of Texas tell the sorry tale of a former county district attorney under arrest for allegedly hiding evidence, thus convicting an innocent man of murder. Now free after nearly 25 years in prison, that man is the subject of a new documentary, “An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story.” One of its co-producers and co-writers is John Dean, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1976.

W&L’s Department of Theater and Dance is sponsoring a showing of “An Unreal Dream” in the Stackhouse Theater on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 p.m.

John, of Kerrville, Texas, has combined a career in the oil and gas industry with a career as a filmmaker. In the latter capacity, as a visiting assistant professor of theater, he teaches a course at W&L in motion picture screenwriting. In 2004 and 2005, he brought to campus WorldFest Lexington, a showcase of independent films that had first appeared at the Houston International Film Festival.

John’s other credits include writing a 2009 movie called “God Thinks You’re a Loser,” which won the Experimental Award of Merit from the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood; and producing “22 Hours,” a 2008 short film. According to IMDB, John pulled double duty in “22 Hours” with his acting role as “Man in Hat.”

“An Unreal Dream” arrives in Lexington on the heels of its premiere this past January at the famed South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas, where it won the SXSW 2013 Audience Award—Documentary Spotlight. Al Reinert, the director, has won two Academy Awards: for his documentary “For All Mankind” and for his screenplay “Apollo 13.”

“In 1986 Michael Morton’s wife Christine is brutally murdered in front of their only child, and Michael is convicted of the crime,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Locked away in Texas prisons for a quarter century, he has years to ponder questions of justice and innocence, truth and fate. Though he is virtually invisible to society, a team of dedicated attorneys spends years fighting for the right to test DNA evidence found at the murder scene. Their discoveries ultimately reveal that the price of a wrongful conviction goes well beyond one man’s loss of freedom.”

Variety called the film “a stirring story of triumph.” Recent stories about the film and about Michael Morton also appear in the Huffington Post and the Austin American-Statesman. The film’s website contains a bounty of information, as well as a video clip: