One injustice that simply won’t end: The saga of Brandon Hein


Some students of mine from past semesters know that — for a host of personal and other reasons — the mind-boggling injustice of Brandon Hein’s continued imprisonment has concerned me for years.

More information about Brandon’s case can be found here, although the blog is only occasionally updated. Actor Charles Grodin has also devoted significant time and effort  to the cause of undoing this injustice. And William Gazecki’s superb documentary Reckless Indifference is still an excellent introduction to Brandon’s case.

We must never, ever, forget Brandon Hein.

And it is time for Governor Jerry Brown to use his executive powers to end Brandon’s imprisonment.

An Incredible Injustice: The Case of Brandon Hein


Any of you who are students of mine have almost certainly heard me mention William Gazecki’s extraordinary film “Reckless Indifference.” It is a must see, both for its formal brilliance and terrifying account of  injustice.

Rather than give you all the details, let me ask you a simple question:

How many of you, when young, ever unthinkingly put yourself in a position that had the potential to go horribly and irreversibly wrong?  Not a moment when anything necessarily did go wrong, but a situation when a mild risk or peril could have easily morphed into a full-blown tragedy.

I did have such a moment, and one day I will take the time to tell the story. I can tell you that I dodged the bullet. Fate worked to my advantage and a situation in which people could have lost their lives ended up just fine.

Gazecki’s film tells the story of one young man, Brandon Hein, who  stepped into just such a situation. But fate was not on his side and the result is that he has been serving a life sentence for well over  14 years.  Please see the film, learn about Brandon’s case, learn about the legal controversy surrounding something called the felony murder rule, and decide for yourself.

I did, and I am absolutely certain that this is a monmental injustice and that Brandon must be freed.

Finally, check out a piece about Brandon this week in Newsweek written by actor and social commentator Charles Grodin.

As long as this young man is in prison, I will be haunted by the fact that my brush with fate ended with no harm only because of the direction the wind was blowing on one warm, dry day in 1963 in the San Gabriel Valley of California.

Think of it: The direction the wind was blowing.

Let me know what you think.  And remember Brandon.