The television program Presumed Guilty focuses exclusively on the public defender, an attorney at a federal,
state or local agency representing individuals who are accused of a crime but cannot pay for their own legal counsel.
To get a better idea of how the role of the public defender fits into the larger context of the legal and criminal
justice system, check out some of these Web sites.
Explore compelling public broadcasting sites with interactive features on crime, punishment and justice; research organizations that will help you understand the law; and find sites related to the television presentation and public defenders. Educators can also find sites appropriate for the classroom.
360degrees: Perspectives on the U.S. Criminal Justice System
Through the use of personal stories and a historical timeline, the 360degrees site examines trends in crime and the emotional effects of incarceration. Stories focus on individual cases and the feelings and reactions of the people involved. The site collaborates with educators and journalists to understand the causes behind the growth of the criminal justice system and work toward reversing those causes and, in turn, creating healthier communities.
Frontline: Real Justice
The PBS series Real Justice looks at the work and lives of prosecutors and defense lawyers. The companion Web site lists facts and statistics about lawyers, including their salaries and caseloads; offers information about court systems throughout the United States; and has a discussion page.
Frontline: Juvenile Justice
This PBS Frontline Web site features four young people who faced serious charges and discusses how the court dealt with each of them. Learn about the "adult versus child" controversy, juvenile courts and what stimulates violence in children.
NPR: All Things Considered, "Thoughts on Crime and Punishment,"
Friday, June 13, 1997
This audio report from All Things Considered features a conversation with William Schweiker, University of Chicago associate professor of the divinity school; New York Supreme Court Judge Harold Rothwax; and Southern Mississippi University criminal justice teacher Donald Cabana about our society's view on punishment.
NPR: Talk of the Nation, "Bill of Rights: Sixth Amendment,"
Monday, March 11, 1996.
This audio report features Ray Suarez in conversation with a defense lawyer and judge about who gets "effective counsel" in an exploration of the Sixth Amendment. It also features the perspective of a convicted murderer in Georgia, and an examination of whether or not juries adequately represent the community.
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Bureau of Justice Assistance
The Bureau of Justice Assistance program is a function of the U. S. Department of Justice. It was created to involve the public in understanding the justice system and its effect on individual communities, and to inspire collaboration in ensuring the safety of neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.
United States Sentencing Commission
As an independent agency, the U.S. Sentencing Commission forms a part of the judicial branch of government. The commission has three major responsibilities. It creates sentencing policies for the federal courts. It advises Congress on the development of crime policy. Finally, it uses research and analysis to provide federal crime and sentencing information to Congress, the courts, criminal law practitioners and the public.
Legal Information Institute, Cornell University
The Legal Information Institute site stocks a wealth of information, from a detailed list of law categories and corresponding laws, to constitutions and codes, to the American Legal Ethics Library. The site is complete with directories of lawyers, organizations, journals and law schools.
An Anatomy of a Criminal Trial
This article on the Nolo -- Law for All site outlines court procedures in a concise and manageable way. From the beginning of a case, when the defendant chooses to be tried by a judge or a jury, to the closing and sentencing, this page will explain all of the steps.
Talk Justice -- The World's Criminal Justice Forum
Talk Justice is an open forum for criminal justice practitioners, academicians, students, crime victims and concerned citizens. In addition to discussion, the site offers a useful "cybrary" (online library) of information about crime prevention, due process, gangs, police, unsolved crimes and many other issues.
The American Bar Association
The American Bar Association is listed as the largest voluntary professional association in the world. It aims to improve lawyers' careers through continuing education and programs for lawyers and judges. For the public, the ABA provides access to legal information and advocates initiatives to improve the legal system.
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics
The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics provides information about the criminal justice system. The site is divided into six sections that include statistics about the following: the criminal justice systems, public attitudes toward crime and criminal justice-related topics, the nature and distribution of known offenses, characteristics and distribution of persons arrested, judicial processing of defendants, and persons under correctional supervision.
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The Burden of Defense -- Surviving a Rookie Year in the Alameda County Criminal Courts
In this article, the reader learns real-life truths about the concept of fair trial and the difficulties of having noble intentions as a public defender. Stephanie Hartung is a rookie public defender in Alameda County. Over half of her clients claim innocence, in hopes of obtaining a better outcome through a trial, although they are guilty of the charges against them. Hartung contends with numerous difficult cases and learns that justice is not black-and-white.
NPR: Morning Edition, "Poor Public Defense," Thursday, July 13, 2000.
In this audio download, Janet Heimlich reports from Austin on the way public defenders in capital murder cases are chosen in Texas. According to NPR, "County judges appoint private attorneys to represent indigent murder defendants. Critics say the system is flawed because there is no guarantee that a defendant will get a competent lawyer, or that the judge will approve funds to properly investigate the defendant's case."
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Offices featured in the television program:
San Francisco County, Office of the Public Defender
San Francisco County, Office of the District Attorney
National counterparts of the public defender and district attorney roles:
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association
National District Attorneys Association
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Directory of Prosecuting Attorneys, District Attorneys, Attorneys General and U.S. Attorneys on the Web
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