The story of a Pennsylvania man who spent 22 years on death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence is in the works as a feature from producer Lucy Rice.
“Seven Days to Live” is based on the autobiography of Nick Yarris (pictured). Rice, of Amala Films, Yarris and executive producer Corky Kessler have started work on casting in Los Angeles.
Yarris was sentenced to death in 1982 in Pennsylvania for a rape and murder he did not commit. He sat in solitary confinement on Death Row for nearly 22 years until DNA testing proved his innocence in 2003. He was released from prison in January 2004.
In 1985 Yarris became one of the FBIs 10 Most Wanted for escape from death row after being shot at by prison guards in transit to an appeal in Pennsylvania. Yarris turned himself in in Florida after 25 days on the run.
Yarris taught himself to read in prison, where he discovered DNA testing and read over 10,000 books. In 1988, Yarris became the first inmate to seek DNA testing of evidence — which eventually proved that genetic material found under the victim’s fingernails, on her undergarments and in a pair of gloves possibly worn by the killer was not his.
Yarris now lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jessica and is a spokesman for Death Penalty Focus Group. “Seven Days to Live” was published in 2008; he also commissioned Calix Lewis Reneau to adapt the book as a screenplay.
“I don’t have time to be bitter,” he told Variety. “I learned to love myself in prison.”
Yarris was featured in the 2005 American documentary film “After Innocence” about men who were exonerated from death row by DNA evidence. Directed by Jessica Sanders, the film took the Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance film Festival.
Rice, an Australian native based in L.A., is also producing “The Divine Mistake ” which chronicles the life of Sydney-born artist Theresa Byrnes. Rice is the great-granddaughter of Australian painter Roland Wakelin.
Rice and Kessler have hired John Corser as line producer and production manager and Ronnie Yeskel and Nancy Green-Keyes as casting directors for “Seven Days to Live.”
Kessler is a partner at the Chicago law firm Deutsch, Levy and Engel.