Amber’s Death

By Jan Banning

Carroll Co., Georgia, USA. Tuesday April 14, 1992 was a balmy spring day just before Easter. Shortly after 12:30 pm, 22-year-old Christina Boyer drove off from her new boyfriend David Herrin’s trailer in his old Chevy Impala. She went to work as a typist in the nearby town of Carrollton, leaving her three-year-old daughter Amber in David’s care. Christina: ‘When I left, she jumped in David’s lap with a book for him to read to her. She said: “He reading me mommy.”

Six hours later, Christina pulled back up in the driveway. ‘I saw David had come out on the porch. He was just standing there looking at me and mumbled something. So, I stuck my head out and said: “What?” And then he said he couldn’t get Amber up. My response was: “What? She’s still asleep? She will never sleep tonight!” He said: “No, I mean I can’t wake her up”. At that point, I jumped out of the car, ran to her room and she was lying there under the covers. She had a foul odor to her mouth. I put my head to her chest but I heard and felt nothing. I yanked the covers, scooped her up and ran for the car screaming, “She’s not breathing, drive!”’

Imagining Amber’s cot right after she was taken to hospital

For about an hour, they sat in the waiting room, hoping the doctors could resuscitate Amber. ‘David has his hands covering his face – he mumbles over and over: “I’m sorry!” but doesn’t answer my question – “for what?”’ Attempts to revive Amber were in vain. She was pronounced dead at 8.25 p.m. What had happened during Christina’s six-hour absence? And what happened afterwards? We will delve into that in the next episodes.

Christina and Amber in their appartment in Carrollton

In June 2013, artist/photographer Jan Banning received permission to portray female inmates in Georgia’s Pulaski State Prison. Afterwards, he went on the internet to do background checks on the approximately 80 women who stepped up. Christina was one of them.

Pulaski State Prison, Georgia, Christina Boyer

Jan Banning: “I quickly found reasons to doubt the official version of her case. Over time, I collected and studied the complete archive, asked Dutch and Belgian medical specialists for their interpretations, and during my research, I became increasingly convinced that Christina was innocent.

Christina and me started a correspondence and eventually I invited her to make her own contribution. We entered into a close collaboration. The resulting book (and exhibition) The Verdict is a kaleidoscopic whole which combines documentary and staged photos with newspapers, Christina’s diaries, her written associations with my photos, photos from her family album, my own writings and those of Georgetown University law professor Marc M. Howard.

I hope that the book and the exhibition about this case will contribute to the release of Christina Boyer. But the project has a wider scope. The Verdict is a case study of the cruel American criminal justice system and its impact on human beings. In a deeper sense, the exhibition also depicts how the indigent are being crushed by cold and almost self-steering systems. It raises questions about subjectivity and objectivity, about truth and falsehood, and about distilling judgment from a confusing multitude of data.”

 

Artist-photographer Jan Banning has had more than 80 solo exhibitions in more than twenty countries, on four continents. His work is included in many public and corporate collections including those of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, the Forward Thinking Museum in New York City, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. His photographs have been published in dozens of newspapers and magazines worldwide, including The New Yorker, Time and Newsweek. His book ‘The Verdict’ is available in both Dutch and English. Click here for more information about the upcoming exhibtion in Rotterdam. There is also a podcast, called ‘Jan & Christina’.