"Just Mercy" — Mike Conley, Utah Jazz present donations to groups fighting wrongful convictions in the U.S.

Mike Conley fought back tears as he watched. The Utah Jazz point guard attended a special screening of  “Just Mercy” — the true story of an Alabama man’s fight for justice after being wrongfully convicted of murder — on Thursday afternoon and saw a story he hoped would inspire others to make change.

“I think we all were in tears, struggling the whole movie,” Conley said as he joined a panel of speakers after the film. “Unfortunately, the whole time I was thinking in my head that this is what I already know. Being an African-American, minority, or poor, you get in a tough situation and you don’t get a fair shake.”

The film tells the story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) and Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), an inmate who had been sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit.

“This was about much more than making a movie that’s entertaining. This is about changing hearts and minds and changing the criminal justice system,” said Scott Budnick, executive producer of the film, which opened in theaters nationwide Friday.

In the United States, experts estimate the rate of wrongful conviction is somewhere between 2 and 10 percent, and roughly 1 in 25 death row inmates are later found to be innocent.

After the screening, Conley joined Greg Miller, NBA governor for the Jazz, in presenting the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center and non-profit Represent Justice each with $10,000 donations after the screening.

“This movie is a great way to open a lot of peoples’ eyes to things we might be ignorant to–even myself,” Conley said. “Let’s take what we learned, spread the word and try to do what we can each day to do the right thing. … We all have the same goals and want to see a better state, a better world, a better Utah."

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