Partially based on a 2005 story from NPR’s “This American Life,” the feature film follows Warner, a Trinidad-born resident of the film’s titular Brooklyn neighborhood who was arrested at age 18 for the 1980 murder of 16-year-old Mario Hamilton. According to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations, Warner was charged with second-degree murder and criminal weapons possession. He was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to 15 years-to-life, all while professing his innocence.
The film also features former NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha (“Hello, My Name is Doris”) as Carl King, Warner’s childhood friend who works on the outside to exonerate him. The trailer shows Warner and King’s struggles with judges, attorneys and their own families to prove Warner’s innocence for more than a decade. Thanks to King’s persistence, Warner walked free in 2001. It was nearly 20 years after his conviction, and 10 years after Norman Simmonds, who was arrested in connection with Hamilton’s murder, signed an affidavit admitting sole responsibility for the crime. Warner settled a $2 million wrongful conviction suit with the city a year later.
“Crown Heights” premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic films. Matt Ruskin (“The Infiltrator”) directed and produced the film from his own script. The project also features Stanfield’s “Atlanta” co-star Brian Tyree Henry, Natalie Paul (“Power”) and Nestor Carbonell (“Bates Motel”) in supporting roles.
Watch the trailer above before distributor Amazon Studios releases “Crown Heights” in select theaters on August 25.