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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Southwest of Salem follows fight of four Latina lesbians for exoneration
2016-10-15

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INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY ANNOUNCES WORLD TELEVISION PREMIERE DATE FOR DOCUMENTARY SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR

— Crime and Justice Network Activates Viewers to #FreeTheSA4 as they Battle for Exoneration —

( Silver Spring, Md. ) — In 1994, four Latina lesbians were wrongfully convicted of aggravated sexual assault and indecency against two young girls in San Antonio, TX. In 2012 and 2013, after one of the accusers recanted and the forensic evidence used in the trial was debunked, Elizabeth Ramirez, Anna Vasquez, Kristie Mayhugh and Cassandra Rivera were released from prison … but they are still without freedom. Waging an ongoing fight for their exoneration, Southwest of Salem follows documentarian Deborah S. Esquenazi as she captures the nightmarish persecution and devastating impact on the "San Antonio Four" and their families. Critically acclaimed and lauded at Tribeca, Hot Docs, and AFI Film Festivals, Southwest of Salem presents an intense and maddening reinvestigation into the bizarre allegations waged against these women during the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980-90s, and examines the disturbing injustices by which they were targeted for their sexual identities. Calling upon viewers to help #FreeTheSA4, Investigation Discovery will air the world television premiere of SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR exclusively under its independent documentary strand films banner, ID FILMS, on Saturday, October 15 from 8-10 PM ET.

"Southwest of Salem is an emotionally riveting and gut-wrenching film, that delivers a stark reminder that our justice system is not always so just," said Henry Schleiff, Group President, Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America. "With ID's platform and reach, we are proud to present this project on behalf of the San Antonio Four, which we hope will galvanize our impassioned viewers to help fix this clear miscarriage of justice and further combat LGBTQ intolerance."

Southwest of Salem begins its journey inside a Texas prison, over a decade after Ramirez, Rivera, Mayhugh and Vasquez were put behind bars. Documentarian Deborah S. Esquenazi weaves together emotional interviews with the women ( labeled the San Antonio Four ) and their families with actual news footage and home videos, equally showcasing the injustice of the situation and the families that were torn apart as a result. Unique to the San Antonio Four case, none of the four women ever took a plea bargain or even considered it, despite serving their time in separate prisons. While the state offered deferred adjudication, requiring no time in prison but probation for ten years, the women turned down the offer, maintaining their innocence and faith in truth and justice. Ultimately, Elizabeth Ramirez received a 37.5 year sentence, while her friends, Anna, Cassie, and Kris, were convicted for 15 years each. Esquenazi also follows the work of attorneys from the Innocence Project of Texas, who played a pivotal role in securing an on-camera recantation by one of the victims, now 27 years old—and the women's ultimate release from prison in 2012 and '13. Today, the San Antonio Four continue their fight for exoneration in tandem with the Innocence Project, and their case is currently up for review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A hearing date has not yet been set.

Call To Action

Please take 2 minutes to help the San Antonio Four with their exoneration battle:

1. Call 1-210-335-2311 and ask for District Attorney Nico LaHood's office.

Here's what to say: "I am angered by Judge Pat Priest's ruling to not recommend exoneration for Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Anna Vasquez, and Kristie Mayhugh. I want Nico LaHood and the District Attorney's office of Bexar County to take a stand on the San Antonio Four case to declare actual innocence and have the women exonerated for their wrongful convictions."

2. Tweet/Facebook the district attorney's office to take a stand!

Twitter: @BexarCounty @BexarDA Take a stand about the @SanAntonioFour injustice! Recommend exoneration #FreetheSA4 @IPofTexas #southwestOfSalem

Facebook: I am angered by Judge Pat Priest's ruling to not recommend exoneration for Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Anna Vasquez, and Kristie Mayhugh. I want Nico LaHood and the District Attorney's office of @Bexar County to take a stand on the San Antonio Four case to declare actual innocence and have the women exonerated for their wrongful convictions. #FreetheSA4 #SouthwestOfSalem.

Innocence Project works 100% pro bono. You can support their efforts to exonerate the SA4 and hundreds of other innocent incarcerated folks at www.southwestofsalem.com/actnow

SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR is produced by Motto Pictures and Naked Edge Films with Deborah S. Esquenazi as director and Sam Tabet as producer. For Motto Pictures Julie Goldman and Christopher Clements are executive producers. For Naked Edge Films, Jim Butterworth and Daniel J. Chalfen are executive producers. For Investigation Discovery, Pamela Deutsch is senior executive producer, Sara Kozak is senior vice president of production, Kevin Bennett is general manager, and Henry Schleiff is Group President of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America.

About Deborah S. Esquenazi

Deborah S. Esquenazi is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer, curator, journalist. Her work explores the intersections of mythology & justice, identity & power. She is a Rockwood JustFilms Ford Foundation Fellow, 2016; Firelight Media Lab Fellow, 2016; Artist-in-Residence at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in Austin, 2016-19; Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, 2015; Sundance Documentary Film Fellow, 2014. Her projects have received support from Humanities Texas, Sundance Institute in association with JustFilms Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures, IFP, Arcus Fund, Paul Robeson Fund, and many others. Her debut feature documentary, Southwest of Salem, premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim, and is a reinvestigation into the bizarre allegations waged against the 'San Antonio Four' during the 'Satanic Panic' of the 1980-90's.

About Investigation Discovery

Investigation Discovery ( ID ) is the leading mystery-and-suspense network on television. From harrowing crimes and salacious scandals to the in-depth investigations and heart-breaking mysteries behind these "real people, real stories", the "always revealing" network challenges our everyday understanding of culture, society and the human condition. One of our nation's fastest growing cable networks, ID delivers the highest-quality programming to more than 85 million U.S. households and is available in both high definition ( HD ) and standard definition ( SD ). For more information, please visit InvestigationDiscovery.com, facebook.com/InvestigationDiscovery, or twitter.com/DiscoveryID. Investigation Discovery is part of Discovery Communications ( Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK ), the world's #1 pay-TV programmer reaching nearly 3 billion cumulative subscribers in 220 countries and territories.


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