|Bay Window: Presumed Guilty: Press Release
Gripping Documentary Takes the Stand
With Inside Look at Public Defenders in PRESUMED GUILTY
Documentary Gives Fresh Perspective on Real Drama of Public Defense Attorneys
Viewers Witness Behind-the-Scenes Struggles in Jails, Holding Cells, Courtrooms
Program to Air on PBS Nationwide October 23 at 9 p.m.
San Francisco, CaliforniaPublic defenders are not the mediocre lawyers that often sleep through trials or bargain away the rights of their clients, as popularly portrayed on such regular television fare as Cops, Law & Order, The Practice or Court TV. They are among the most under-appreciated and misunderstood professionals in the world. These bold, brash and passionate advocates clash daily with police, district attorneys, judges and even their clients, in an effort to advocate justice for the accused.
It is a constitutional right for all citizens to have a lawyer (under legal circumstances) when accused of a crime. Studies show, however, that the vast majority of all people in the United States accused of crimes cannot afford private lawyers and are assigned public defenders or court appointed attorneys. In the nation's 100 largest counties in 1999, public defender programs handled 82 percent of the 4.2 million cases with indigent defendants. Presumed Guilty explores one such office in San Francisco to see what really goes on between defense attorneys and the accused, delving into the inner sanctum of lawyer-client confidentiality while following two high-profile murder casesthe "Pink Tarantula Murder" and the "Tenderloin Confidential" caseand two other gripping cases being handled by junior attorneys.
KQED Public Television 9 in San Francisco and Skylight Pictures in New York present Presumed Guilty, a powerful look at the triumphs, defeats and deep moral dilemmas of a group of gutsy lawyers in the San Francisco Public Defenderís Office, whose 80 attorneys handle over 19,000 cases a year. Airing nationwide on PBS on Wednesday, October 23, 2002, at 9 p.m., this two-hour documentary chronicles compelling cases and takes viewers on a suspenseful ride through a court system which could imprison some of the accused for the rest of their lives.
Filmed and produced over three years by Pamela Yates and Peter Kinoy, this film breaks new ground by giving an unprecedented view of these attorneys who wrestle with situations such as misdemeanor charges of being under the influence to highly publicized murder trials. In Presumed Guilty, the cases unfold through the eyes of the public defenders themselves: what they see, the audience sees; what they hear, the audience hears. Most uniquely, the audience gets to understand what drives these complex and combative lawyers as they struggle through daunting moral dilemmas and even battle their own personal demons.
The film highlights one of San Francisco's top public defenders, Jeff Adachi, who, over the course of his career, has worked his way from a raw rookie to chief attorney, the number two position in the Public Defender's Office. Presumed Guilty includes remarkable perspectives on other public defenders: Will Maas, a public defender for 15 years who served three tours in Vietnam; Stephen Rosen, a senior felony attorney who counsels the younger lawyers with his experience; and Nigel Phillips, a British rock 'n' roller who has become an investigator for the Public Defender's Office. Additionally the film takes a look at two rookie defendersPhoenix Streets, who served four years in the Navy and endured racist attacks growing up in Arkansas, and Michele Forrar, who is trying her sixth case after losing her first five.
Presumed Guilty provides the audience with new insight into the elusive quest for justice. As veteran defender Rosen says, "We all want the right thing to happen in the end. We want the innocent to go free, and if somebodyís done something wrong, there should be a price to be paid. But that is only going to happen if it's an honest fight."
Kinoy noted, "After scouting 20 different offices from across the country, we chose San Francisco because it seemed to embody the best of what a public defenderís office could be."
The Presumed Guilty Web site at pbs.org/presumedguilty has a variety of features, such as: perspectives on criminal justice from the viewpoint of the public defenders, including an intimate "video diary"; an area that educates the public on their legal rights when faced with arrest; discussion boards on the legal and moral dilemmas raised in the film; an examination of the adversarial system of justice; case timelines on the wheels of justice in motion; and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the documentary.
Presumed Guilty is a co-production of KQED Public Television 9 in San Francisco and Skylight Pictures in New York. It is directed by Pamela Yates and edited by Peter Kinoy. Rachel Raney is the co-producer. Senior executive producer for KQED is Sue Ellen McCann.
Presumed Guilty is underwritten by The KQED Campaign for the Future Program Venture Fund and the members of KQED Public Broadcasting.
Skylight Pictures is an independent media production company founded in 1978. Films produced by this New York-based boutique company have won Emmys and an Academy Award and have been exhibited in theatres and on a variety of television networks.
KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched public television station (in prime-time), and Digital Television 9, Northern California's only public television digital signal; KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation; the KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops, seminars and resources; and kqed.org, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.