'Proven Innocent' Season 1: Riley Smith was mentored by wrongfully convicted Jason Strong, for the role of Levi Scott
As soon as Riley Smith bagged the role of Levi Scott, he listened to a podcast about Jason Strong and met him in Chicago to understand the lives of those who are wrongly convicted
Madeline Scott, played by Rachelle Lefevre, may have been very loosely based on one of the most famous cases of wrongful convictions in recent history, Amanda Knox, but it is Riley Smith's character, Levi Scott, who sheds a true reflection of what life actually is for those who are wrongly convicted and are then proven innocent. Cue, in a recent interview, Smith said; "As close as they are, and they both went through the same 10 years in prison, you see, kind of, two sides of their coin."
"One becomes a famous attorney to represent wrongfully convicted people, and then Levi kind of represents the mass majority of people that get out of prison, which is you have a dark cloud over you and people still think you’re guilty," he stated.
In the very first episode itself, the contrast between the Scott siblings is striking. Madeline is all suited up to take up wrongful conviction cases, and goes against Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer), the prosecutor who put them behind bars, and even manages to win all the cases. Levi, on the other hand, struggles to hold his life together. Despite working as a sports coach, he is immediately fired later in the episode.
He was happy till the time he had a job, or something to keep him occupied, but when the job is taken away from him, he spirals back into drugs and depression, which leads him to become a suspect again, mainly in the eyes of his own sister.
Smith said on taking up the role Levi Scott, he was mentored by Jason Strong, another famous case of wrongful conviction. Strong served 15 years in jail for a murder he did not commit. He was arrested by Waukegan police in Illinois and was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Mary Kate Sunderlin in 2000. He was released in May 2015.
In Strong's interview with the Chicago Tribune, he spoke about the loneliest day of his life, which was the day he was wrongfully convicted. He broke down talking about his experience and says; "Life goes on but we don't."
When Smith bagged the role, he listened to a podcast about Jason and met him in Chicago. "I’ve learned so much about this process, and it’s just a really unfair situation," Smith said. "It’s hard to have relationships, and it’s hard to get jobs, and Levi carries an addiction that he picked up basically in prison that he’s trying to shake," Smith said adding Levi will go face to face with Bellows in later seasons and find the murderer of Rosemary Lynch because that is the only and ultimate way to clear his name.
An article by an online privacy company, Abine noted that once a person is convicted, and is proven innocent, the person still remains guilty. Why? Because of the internet era. Pointing to Google, the report suggests that once a person is arrested, it's reported by a local newspaper, and the charges are dropped and he/she is proven innocent, the original article on the internet continues to live. "Now whenever anyone searches that person’s name, the arrest is one of the top Google results even though [they] weren’t guilty," the article reads.
The consequences of this are many, very much like what Levi Scott is facing. There's difficulty in getting a job or even getting into a relationship. "It seems unfair that even though the judicial system saw fit to remove all traces of the arrest from the person’s record, there’s no corresponding requirement that the local newspaper do the same. What’s the point of expunging a record when anyone with internet access can bring up an old, bogus arrest? Even if a court of law drops the matter, the court of public opinion has condemned that person for life," the article states.