Conviction [kuh nvikshuh n]: In law, a conviction is the verdict that results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime. Conviction is also a fixed or firm belief.

Julie Anne with sister Patty

Take the true life story of a neglected brother and sister who only had each other growing up through the foster care system, the brother convicted to life in prison without parole for murder, and the sister whose conviction in her brother’s innocence led to an eighteen year battle against all odds to overthrow the verdict. Sound like a Lifetime Movie of the week? Now add an all-star cast, the October 15th release date, and the race for Oscar is off!
Usually I find this kind of movie depressing and melodramatic. I was pleasantly surprised to find a deftly woven, touchingly human story expertly helmed by director Tony Goldwyn with flawed but lovable characters. Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) is the amusing, working class charmer with a temper that gets him into trouble. Convinced her brother is innocent and only behind bars for lack of good representation, sister Betty Anne (Hilary Swank), is the spunky-tough, determined little sister who pulls herself up by the bootstraps, earns her GED and puts herself through law school to defend her brother at the expense of her marriage and children. Betty Anne’s law school pal, Abra Rice (Minnie Driver) keeps both the humor and reality checks flowing while Juliette Lewis puts in an Oscar worthy cameo as Roseanna Perry, an ex girlfriend of Kenny’s, confronted by Betty Anne, Abra, and Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher) of the Innocence Project. Conviction is a powerfully uplifting film that is well worth seeing!
Patricia Friedman Halfon

The film begs you to examine the possibility that mistakes happen and innocent people do go to prison. If Massachusetts had been a death penalty state, Kenny Waters would have been dead long before his release. Had his sister not been relentless in her pursuit of the evidence that could clear his name, he would still be rotting away in prison. There are taught moments when even if Betty Anne doen’t question Kenny’s innocence, I did. Does that mean all the years and sacrifices would have been in vain?
I can’t help, but marvel over the strength of her love for her brother, and how a seemingly impossible circumstance could be the catalyst that set her life on such a drastically different path than it might have taken otherwise. The real Betty Anne still works with the Innocence Project today – helping wrongly convicted people overturn their sentences with the use of DNA evidence to prove they are innocent.
Julie, Patty, and Johnnie Friedman

I recognized the look in Kenny’s eyes when words couldn’t express his gratitude, and couldn’t help thinking of my own sister. As kids we were not close. My parents promised me a playmate to dress Barbie dolls and play checkers with. I felt gypped when instead, I got a baby sister that spit up all over me within seconds of meeting (I thought she was faulty merchandise and wanted my parents to exchange her for a sister that wasn’t already sick), then proceeded to take a huge portion of my parents’ attention away from me. I therefore, felt it was my duty to terrorize her for the majority of her childhood.
Daisy was almost as happy as I was to see Patty!

Eventually the gap between us dissipated with age, and as luck would have it, I was the one with “faulty merchandise.” I had a birth defect in my heart that was corrected with surgery earlier this year. My little sister left her own family to come look after me while I recuperated, something I never expected the devoted wife and mother would consider doing, but an act that taught me how strong our sibling bond is despite the rocky start. Believe me, I am most appreciative of having a sister today, and can’t thank her enough for being my caretaker and advocate when I needed her help the most. What would you, or have you been willing to do for your sister or brother?
Sisters: Patty Halfon and Julie Anne Rhodes
Patty also happens to be an astounding cook! I asked her to make me this yummy beef and mushroom barley soup last winter, although I’m sure she put extra onion in just to spite me for bullying her as a kid.

Beef & Mushroom Barley Soup

Servings: 8

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds short ribs of beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts of beef broth
1 28 oz can can fire roasted diced tomatoes1 bay leaf
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups mushroom blend, re-hydrated (reserving liquid for the soup)
Salt and pepper to taste


1). Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef short ribs with salt and pepper, and brown in batches. Set aside on a foil tented platter.

2). Add remaining olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, red pepper, and garlic. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add beef back in, cooking an additional 2 minutes.

3). Add beef broth, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, pearl barley, mushrooms, and reserved mushroom liquid to the soup. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasoning to taste, and serve hot.

Serving Suggestions:This is a robustly filling soup on it’s own, but you could serve with freshly baked crusty rolls or biscuits.

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  • October 11, 2010
    5:50 pm

    You are so lucky to have a sister close in age to you! There is a 15 year age difference between my big sis and me. Despite that, we remain close through phone calls, e-mails and a shared interest in art. She's a great cook too, but maybe not as adventurous as I am. But then, I only really cook when there is someone coming over, but that is starting to change bit by bit. The soup recipe looks wonderful and I'm thinking that would be a good one to make and freeze in portion sizes. That way I don't have any excuse to not have a nutritious meal even when I'm alone. Sounds like a plan!

  • October 11, 2010
    6:02 pm

    very nice review … and olive oil in a Dutch oven makes me very happy.Madeleine Gallay

  • October 11, 2010
    6:39 pm

    me and my sister were brought up seperately because I was born out of wedlock and the sperm donor did a runner and my sister was born when my mother married my step dad but I wanted to stay with my Nan who brought me up (and my mum and step dad refused to drag me away incase I was affected). However they live and have always lived 5 minutes walk from me. There is 7 years between us and 12 between me and my brother (me and my sister really don't like our brother – the explanation is too long)I can't work but my sister has to work because her partner isn't earning enough for her to stay at home. what I do for my sister is help out with childcare. I helped bring up my nephew who is now 6 and am doing the same with my niece who is 18 months. Childcare is so expensive and she would be worse off working and paying the childcare. So with both sets of grandparents I have helped raise these two. So that's what I have done for my sister.She's not a brilliant cook, but her other half shines in the kitchen

  • October 11, 2010
    10:05 pm

    While I have a step-sister, we really are not that close, however, one of my closest friends I have always regarded her as a sister. It's amazing what close bonds can do. She has helped me through the worst of times, and vise versa. I'm so glad that you and your sister are close and how could she not be an amazing cook – she's your sister! :)That movie is on my must see list – the previews looked really good.

  • October 12, 2010
    1:02 am

    Important movie, but then you know little miss prison-reform (me!) would be sharing about this oscar-worthy turn. LOVE seeing Patty's pix. I lost my little sister years ago – how i wish we could have been old "broads" together… kiss kiss to you, love love, across the LA miles…Julia Negron

  • October 12, 2010
    1:18 pm

    Julie Anne,I am looking forward to seeing this movie and what a lovely tribute to your sister and the strength of the bond of sisterhood. My little sis is two years younger than me almost to the day-she was born five days before my 2nd birthday. Because our birthdays are so close we always shared joint birthday celebrations growing up, which as a child I was never happy about! But she grew up into one of my best friends and now as a single gal I am always in awe of the loving wife and mother of three beautiful girls, fabulous cook and amazing woman she has grown up to be. To top it off she recently returned the work force after 12 years of being a full-time mom and I am very proud of her. She does it all with such energy and grace! -Chrissy

  • October 12, 2010
    3:00 pm

    A few days ago, I asked my sister if she would like to be in the delivery room when we have our baby girl, which should be sometime around Christmas. As you know, childbirth isn't something most people would share with just anybody, but my sister will otherwise not have the chance to witness this miraculous experience. Despite a few apprehensions, I wanted to give her this opportunity, and she gladly said, "Yes, I'll be there!"

  • October 12, 2010
    3:07 pm

    Yes, Ruthee – the soup freezes great, so it is well worth making. Lys – I have friends that are like sisters to me too – couldn't get through life without them – Julia is one of them, and you should all see the movie – it is really good. There are funny moments throughout too.Chrissy, I feel you love for your sister in your words!

  • October 12, 2010
    3:07 pm

    Give my kidney or anything else needed in a dire situation (willing, haven't done)Carly Guerrero

  • October 12, 2010
    3:11 pm

    Suzanne – that is beautiful! I wanted to be alone with Nick, but Mom just stayed, and I learned the more, the merrier – we will all share that miraculous day forever. You won't regret your decision.

  • October 12, 2010
    6:54 pm

    Just read the blog. Thank you. I don't know if I did put extra onions in though. Beef and barley soup sounds yummy to me today because it is very cold and rainy here. Tomorrow who knows it may snow!Patty Friedman Halfon

  • October 12, 2010
    6:55 pm

    if only I had a sister or a brother: I'm an only child and that's a greeeeeeeeat question. I would do all what i humanly possible for me to do to help him/her.Manuela Salvade

  • October 12, 2010
    6:55 pm

    I have 5 and I would do absolutely anything for themRebecca Timoleontos

  • October 12, 2010
    6:58 pm

    Did so, Patty (I loved it anyway)! Miss you, but 82 and gorgeous here – move to California.

  • October 12, 2010
    8:06 pm

    i got the same a brother that pooped in the bath urghSerena Wignall

  • October 12, 2010
    11:42 pm

    Jewels, this is such a pretty photo of you….:-)Bj Nelson

  • October 12, 2010
    11:44 pm

    Ahhhhh to be 12 again!

  • October 12, 2010
    11:45 pm

    I hear you. (LOL)Bj Nelson

  • October 13, 2010
    7:32 pm

    Sorry Jewels, I can't relate. I'm an only child! 🙂 I am very, very protective of my cousins though. I'd go to nearly any length to help them out. ♥Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • October 14, 2010
    2:45 am

    Hey Julie Anne,I was an only child until the age of 21. I loved being spoilt (in a good way though), and although I was on my own I had loads of great friends around me.While my mother was going through her pregnancy (at 42), I was in total denial. I kept thinking that she was eating too much and putting on far too much weight. I was such a pain during that time. My brother was born at the end of December '92. It took my best friend to convince me to go to the hospital and see my "little brother". I cannot tell you the emotions I felt when I first lay eyes on him. He was the best thing I had ever seen. Pouting full lips, long eyelashes (I was soooo envious). I literally broke down as I held him and I did not want to let go. I cannot tell you how much I loved taking him out to the movies, playground or shopping as he was growing up. Ok, so I had many people say "what a lovely son you have", but I did not mind. In fact, I thought it was funny. My brother will be 18 this year and I cannot believe how time has flown. I would do absolutely anything for him just like I would do absolutely anything for my own child now.HOORAY for siblings, I say.Aussie Mum 🙂

  • October 15, 2010
    3:38 am

    The soup looks sooooooooo yummy, I can't wait for LA to get cold enough for it! (I am up in the high desert so I really have to wait for cold!).Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on my blog, I'm still tickled over it 3 days later (and just put up another bento post!)As for the sibling thing… my brother is 15 years younger than I am and his first child just turned a year old. I am really enjoying seeing him "grown up" because I still think of him as 5 years old! I haven't really (thank God) ever had to sacrifice anything because he's always been very healthy and whatnot, but because it was only just us two I have a very special place in my heart just for him!