Anne Waters

When Betty Anne Waters’s brother Kenny was convicted of murder, the then-pub waitress and high school dropout was so convinced of his innocence that she trained to become a lawyer in order to have his sentence overturned.

It was an 18-year struggle that would eventually take over her life.

Together, Betty Anne and Kenny experienced what Betty Anne refers to as a “wild” childhood in the rural Massachusetts town of Ayer.

They had a largely absent single mother, and Kenny was frequently arrested by the police.

However, when a neighbour was brutally murdered in 1980 and Kenny was charged with the crime, Betty Anne was convinced he was innocent.

Kenny had been working at the local diner on the night of the alleged murder, and the next morning he had appeared in court on an earlier charge of assault.

“The perfect alibi,” Betty Anne said.

So Betty Anne was taken aback when her brother was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1983.

The family had not hired a specialist lawyer because they had so little money and were so certain Kenny would be released.

Kenny attempted suicide in prison and told his sister, “I’m just not going to make it here as an innocent man.”

Betty Anne was so upset, and so certain of Kenny’s innocence, that she promised her brother she would go to law school and represent him in court.

“I don’t care if it takes you 80 years, if you tell me you’ll do it, you will, and I know you’ll find a way to prove my innocence,” she said.

Despite the fact that she had not completed high school, the waitress and mother of two kept her promise and enrolled in the local community college.

“I figured I’d at least keep my brother alive just by being there,” she explained.


She had to work hard for 12 years to get through college and law school, but she eventually became a lawyer.

As Kenny’s attorney, she was successful in locating new DNA evidence, a science that did not exist at the time of her brother’s conviction.

She successfully had her brother exonerated with the help of the clickInnocence Project, a US group that helps overturn wrongful convictions, and Kenny was finally freed in 2001, after 18 years in prison.

Betty Anne then spent another seven years looking for evidence that the police had knowingly sent the wrong man to prison and fighting a civil suit on her brother’s behalf.

She won her case, and in 2009, the town of Ayer agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that Kenny had been wrongfully convicted.

Betty Anne spent nearly three decades working to clear her brother’s name. She also lost her marriage as a result of her husband’s complaint that she loved her brother more than him.

The story of her extraordinary life has now been adapted into a Hollywood film titled “Conviction”.

She has never practiced law again, but she volunteers for the Innocence Project and works in a Rhode Island pub.

Betty Anne Waters discussed her extraordinary personal story of devotion and determination with Outlook’s Jo Fidgen.

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