Joe Amrine's story headlined local Kansas City Missouri newspapers and led media news casts when it broke. He had been released from prison after spending 23 years behind bars, 17 of those years on death row, for a murder he didn’t commit. The story captured the attention of the public and reignited public and media discussions about abolishing the death penalty, which often featured Armine as one of the primary advocates. 

Dr. Rita Garabet was a young dental student back then but remembers the story behind Joe Amrine's release. Never would she have guessed that 19 years later their paths would cross and she would be able to give Joe Amrine something life had taken from him.

 

Watch Joe's story here >

Joe had been serving a 15-year sentence for burglary and robbery when he was accused, convicted and sentenced to death in 1986 for killing a fellow inmate, based on the testimony of three other inmates. Seventeen years later, the inmates recanted their testimony and admitted to lying.  

Joe Amrine was finally exonerated of the crime and released from prison in 2003. Nineteen years later, freedom outside prison walls is still a challenge for the 65-year-old. 

Today he works as a dishwasher for a local hotel and struggles to make ends meet. Neither the GED nor paralegal certificates earned since his release have been enough for finding employment at a living wage in a state like Missouri where his wrongful conviction still appears on his record. What little extra money he has, he spends on helping others or buying presents for the many grand nieces and nephews born during his 23 years of incarceration. In his free time he plays chess, a game he came to love while in prison. He is not shy about his mastery of the game, priding himself on winning every game he’s played in the last 12 years. 

Even though Joe celebrates his 19 years of freedom, he still needs to rely on services such as those provided by the non-profit organization After Innocence to help him deal with basic services such as access to health and dental care. The decades in prison had left him with an edentulous maxillary arch and only nine teeth in his lower jaw, impacting his health, speech and his ability to smile.

After Innocence reached out to Dr. Garabet, now practicing dentistry at Belton Family Dentistry in Belton Missouri. She immediately accepted, moved by Amrine’s story and understanding how much life had taken away from him.

 

“When I first met Joe, he told me he didn’t know how to smile anymore and that truly broke my heart. I hoped I would be able to give him back his smile again. There is no gift greater than that.”

Garabet shared her excitement about the Ivotion digital denture system with Joe, explaining it would allow her to provide him with a full denture in a single day and give him back his smile and eat normal foods. She was able to extract the nine remaining teeth in the lower jaw and in the same appointment fit him with a full denture. 

“It gave him so much youth and vibrance. Ivotion is unlike any other denture I’ve ever delivered. It is truly setting the bar high for everybody else.” 

As for Joe, he is learning to smile again.

“These feel like my real teeth!”  
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