“Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent” is a documentary film examining laws called breed specific legislation (BSL), which ban or restrict the ownership of certain breeds or types of dogs – namely pit bull terriers.
During the mid-1980s, pit bull dogs became the target of legislation sweeping across the United States in the name of public safety after attacks became leading headlines in the national mainstream news media.
Using the state of Ohio as the backdrop, the film takes place in a suburb of Cleveland in the spring of 2008 after Lakewood City Council proposes a ban on pit bull dogs. GTPI guides the viewer through the entire process of proposal and passage of the law, the enforcement, and its subsequent repeal a decade later.
What started as a documentary exploring dogfighting in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 Michael Vick case, turned into a five year examination of the effectiveness of breed specific legislation, and the subsequent pursuit for its end.
On the late morning of April 25, 2007, breaking news began making its rounds that NFL star quarterback – Michael Vick, was suspected of running a dogfighting operation after his rural Virginia property was raided by federal authorities where they discovered dozens of pit bull dogs with paraphernalia and other evidence of the illegal activity.
On that day “Fighting For Their Lives” – a documentary exploring the underground world of dogfighting, was born.
About one year later in May 2008, independent documentary filmmaker, Jeff Theman, contacted the only “pit bull” rescue in Cleveland, seeking information about American Pit Bull Terriers. He visited For the Love of Pits on May 16, 2008, where he met and fell in love with a black dog named Preston, with scars believed to be from dogfighting slashed up and down his arms. Before leaving Jeff made his intentions known of his plans to adopt him.
Four days later, on May 19, 2008, Lakewood City Council proposed a pit bull ban, altering Jeff’s ability to bring Preston home. In response to this setback, he pivoted the focus of his film from dogfighting to examine breed specific legislation, titling the project – “Guilty Til Proven Innocent” (GTPI).
To read more about Jeff, go here:
To read more about Preston, go here:
2013 “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent” Official Trailer
2011 “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent” Promo Video
April 28, 2013 | Capitol Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio
April 28, 2019 | Cuyahoga County Public Library in Parma, Ohio
a River Fire Films and Enigma Digital Media production
Jeff Theman & Bryan Porter
Aerial Footage by:
Original Music by:
Joseph Lynn Duckett
“Paramnesia” by Ceterum
“Solar Traveler” by Emmett Cooke
“Save The World” by Emmett Cooke
“To Dream Of Better Days” by Emmett Cooke
“Spiritual Walk” by Emmett Cooke
“Soulful Reflection” by Emmett Cooke
“A New Adventure Awaits” by Emmett Cooke
“Steal My Heart” by Tim Raymond
Interviewed (in the order they appear):
Dr. Ellen Casper
Dr. Bob Kaplan
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Fox 8 Cleveland
The Morning Journal
Lakewood Sun Post
City of Lakewood
Dayton Daily News
The Ohio Channel
The News Tribune
The Spokesman Review
The Seattle Times
Ohio News Network