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The Life and Career of Marc Simon: Writer and Producer of 'After Innocence' and Associate at Dreier, LLP

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Simon, who earned his J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, first became interested in the plight of the exonerated during law school when he was involved in the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal aid clinic. The Innocence Project is made up of a group of individuals dedicated to both rectifying and preventing wrongful convictions.

Inspired by his involvement with the Innocence Project, Simon produced and wrote After Innocence, a documentary film that tells the stories of seven men who were set free from imprisonment after conclusive DNA evidence proved that they had not committed the crimes they had been convicted of. The film goes into detail about each man's life upon being set free and sheds light on the struggles that come with exoneration.

Simon said that upon graduating from law school, he began noticing that the media and the public were celebrating what they saw as victories when criminals were exonerated. However, being an attorney, he was able to see both sides of the issue, and the other side of exoneration alarmed him.

"I was seeing these guys a week later and realizing that there was nothing to support them and they weren't getting support and they were essentially forgotten," he said. "Once the flashbulbs and the reporters went away, that was really the second half of the injustice of wrongful conviction. So I thought, 'What's the best way to bring attention to this but to make a movie about it?'"

The seven men featured in the film are Dennis Maher of Lowell, MA; Calvin Willis of Shreveport, LA; Scott Hornoff of Providence, RI; Wilton Dedge of Cocoa Beach, FL; Vincent Moto of Philadelphia, PA; Nick Yarris of Philadelphia, PA; and Herman Atkins of Los Angeles, CA. Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, co-founders of the Innocence Project, and Dr. Lola Vollen, co-founder of the Life After Exoneration Program, are also featured in the film.

The film, which began as a nonprofit project, was heavily supported by Dreier, LLP. In fact, the firm supported all of the fundraising, in addition to donating directly to the film.

"Overall, the film has been a real point of pride for the firm," Simon said. "For starters, Marc Dreier, who is the founder and head of the firm, was supportive of the project from day one. The film—when it was completed—Marc Dreier and the firm hosted a special screening for the firm personnel; and when the film premiered and there was a special fundraising benefit for the Innocence Project and Life After Exoneration programs, several attorneys from the firm attended that."

In addition to being a filmmaker, Simon is also a litigation and entertainment attorney at Dreier, which he enjoys immensely because of the opportunities it provides him to connect with creative types and get involved in the births of their projects.

"I enjoy helping other creative individuals like myself bring their projects to fruition—whether it's a major independent film or a small television project—and being able to make a concrete difference for them," he said.

When asked if he had any advice for law students, Simon advised students to learn all they can about the areas of law they are interested in; he then advised them to maintain their grades throughout law school.

Currently, Simon is keeping busy with film and television work as an attorney while producing yet another documentary in his spare time. When asked how he finds time for it all, Simon admitted it's a challenge and said he rarely takes a vacation but spends his vacation time working on the film.

"I just work very hard," he said. "I begin early and work late and work on weekends and have partners on the film that work very hard with me so that the daily obligations of producing a film—the daily grind—my producing partner handles, and I deal with the bigger issues."

"The key to it is that it's very symbiotic," he continued. "My film life—producing and making a film—really enhances my abilities as an attorney in terms of what I'm exposed to, the clientele that I'm exposed to, and absolutely makes me a better lawyer; and on the flipside, being an entertainment attorney makes me a far better producer in terms of knowing the marketplace for my potential film projects."

After Innocence will be available on DVD on Feb. 6.

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law


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