New York City is home to
the busiest criminal court in America, with over 300,000 arrests
every year that need to be processed by the system. More than 85%
of defendants arrested receive a free, court-assigned defense attorney.
"How can you defend those people?" is a question that
attorneys for the poor constantly hear.
In INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: PUBLIC DEFENDERS the viewer meets 5 idealistic
lawyers who are intrinsically drawn to this difficult work--they
even refer to themselves as the "stepchildren" of the
legal system. See the obstacles they must overcome; limited funding,
overwhelming caseloads, recalcitrant clients, and the pervasive
racism of the criminal justice system. This program makes a strong
case that the credibility of the criminal courts depends on its
ability to defend unsympathetic clients.
This gritty, cinéma vérité documentary goes
inside the daily lives of these dedicated attorneys by following
several ongoing misdemeanor and felony cases. The cameras capture
the entire legal process, from arraignment and plea-bargaining to
trial and verdict. Footage of jail cell consultations brings home
the relationship between lawyer and client, while events in the
office demonstrate the political aspect of the job. This entertaining
program takes a long look at the role of the public defender, and
examines how the odds are stacked against this crucial component
of the justice system.