real justice
homewhat's it like elsewhere?behind the scenesstats & factsdiscussion

join the discussion: What are your reactions to this report on the real life world of ass't da's and defense lawyers?  Do you have a  story to share about  the criminal  justice  system at the state court level?
viktor & lisa in court

Dear FRONTLINE,

Real Justice may appear to be a realistic peek into the Suffolk County court system. But I'd like to remind viewers that it was merely a glimpse. And because of this we get less than an accurate picture.

I was in the courtroom throughout my brother Joe and Dan's trial Commonwealth vs. the Downey Brothers. I sat through approximately 30 hours of testimony. To condense 30 hours of courtroom proceedings into about 20 minutes and present an accurate picture is impossible. I am troubled that the prosecutor acted as narrator, presenting his version of events, a version which was not supported by testimony in court. The number of doubts and inconsistencies heard in the testimony was astounding. The theory that certain witnesses did not want to be labeled as "rats" or that others feared the defendants is simply not true. And did I mention the juror who "nodded off" more than once during the testimony?

There was a time when I wholeheartedly believed in our justice system. Unfortunately, the system does not always work fairly, which has resulted in a great personal loss for my family. I am completely sympathetic to the Murphy's family loss, but I will never understand how the jury reached this verdict.

Catherine Downey
South Boston, Massachusetts

Dear FRONTLINE,

In my search to better understand the relationships between prosecutors and court
appointed attorneys, I found your series nothing short of honest, enlightening and thrilling.
It put a human face on what TV shows often glorify in an effort to create drama. Real Justice exposed the "real" drama in the truimphs and challenges of these hard working folks!

Real Justice reconfirmed for me that I could never do what these people
do as I would constantly obsess over what is "the real truth".

Thanks!

Radha Blank
NY, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,


I came across Real Justice the other night while flipping through the channels. I watched about 5 minutes and was completely mesmerized. The real-life work pace and situations faced by the attorneys featured was a hundred times better then any fictional legal drama on television. Coming from a huge Law & Order fan, that is something.

Please film more of these documentaries, they are better than heroin. Also, I think Lisa Medeioros is one of the coolest, smartest women I've seen, and the guys at the prosecutors office are idiots for not hiring her. I have a feeling she'll be getting plenty of job offers after your show. o.


Bryan Conner
New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a veteran of the criminal legal process with 18 years as a prosecutor and 1 as a
public defender, I thought this program was a realistic portrait of the work I do.

My one objection was to the voiceover characterization at the beginning of Part II
that most cases are "Bargained away." On the contrary, criminal attorneys efficiently
handle a volume of cases that would paralyze the most experienced civil attorney.
We negotiate more cases in a week than they handle in a year. The results
approximate justice far better than a trial would, at a far smaller cost in both time
and money. The lawyers on both sides quickly digest the information in each case
and settle it with the aim of making the consequences fit the crime and prevent its recurrence. We are constrained by the lack of societal resources to help people and the severe limitations many defendants struggle with.
Thanks for a fair look at a remarkable system.

Susan Page
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dear FRONTLINE,

Congratulations on this wonderful show. My friends back in Boston and I spent a
few hours discussing the lawyers, cases and justice system.
This is the type of programing that would bring me back every week.

Great job!

Gary Van Deurse
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I detest lawyers, always have, consider them bottom feeders. After viewing both parts
one and two I have to revise my opinion, but only slightly. After seeing how little
resources and support that both Lisa and Viktor received while doing thier
best I have to say nice going to them and their peers.

To Frontline, as usual, good job, no fluff, good journalism!

t carty

Dear FRONTLINE,

First off, I would like to mention that "Real Justice" was the best program I've seen on TV for years.

I was most struck by the scenes involving Mrs. Medieros. In particular with regards to the woman accused of beating her children, I don't see how she can live with herself defending such an obviously guilty monster. And the documentary became all too chilling as the women spoke of straightening her kids out again, once they were returned to her.

More than just an expose of the Boston legal system, this documentary gave us a first hand look at how sick and twisted people really are, and it wasn't pretty.

Nicholas Cowan
Seattle, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching this Frontline special, I am proud to know that we have people like Lisa and Viktor working for our city.

My brother-in-law does a lot of pro bono and public defender work in Massachusetts and I now have a greater understanding and respect for the job he does day after day.

Having served for 7 years as a Naval officer it also nice to read about Lisa's story and how she made herself into a compassionate and vital member of out legal system.

Not enough people thanked her for her hard work in the show and I assume off camera as well so let me add my thanks. She deserves to be recognized for her efforts.

Great show!


Carl Perdue
cambridge, mass

Dear FRONTLINE,

My wife a 10 year prosecutor and I enjoyed this show very much. The juries in Boston appear to be as stupid as the juries in California. This should be a wake up call to all those hard working soles who continually shirk their civic duty by trying to get out of jury duty.

Hal Houser

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I empathise with defense lawyers who are underpaid, understaffed and overworked, I couldn't help but feel that for them, it's all about winning.

The repeat offenders, in particular, seem to be the losers in this system as they obviously need treatment for underlying, unaddressed psychological problems. One solution might be for lawyers to strike a deal with their clients: I'll get you off if you get some counseling. If we were in a society that actually gave a shit about its 'offenders', we might see people take more responsibility for their lives and stop the cycle of repeat offense.

Taryn FitzGerald
Brooklyn, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Real Justice" was a very well-presented condensation of what so many of us in the criminal justice system deal with daily. I was very impressed, as so many viewers were, with Attorneys Medeiros and Theiss.

But, one point that I have not seen posted among the other comments from viewers is this: they are so typical of the many, many lawyers laboring in the criminal justice system everyday. Just as Medeiros' clients were identical to those I represented for 10 years as a court-appointed attorney even some of the phrases they spoke were the same, Attorneys Theiss and Medeiros reminded me of my colleagues in their energy, zeal, compassion and uncommon sense.

One viewer asked whether the judge would have permitted a defendant to change his plea if the cameras were not present. The answer is "yes." I've seen it many times. The objective is to close cases and the sooner the better.

I hope those who watched the show will recommend it to their friends. More people should watch it to understand the work of the professionals in the criminal justice system and to respect them for it.

Tom Carrigan
Worcester, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,
I found the program fascinating. My view is that the court system is in fact efficient. Justice is dispensed extremely well relative to the magnitude of cases these attorney's, judges, and courtroom employees are swamped with. The wheeling and dealing is no different than that of business in the private sector, and each one of the subjects received a little sting for their actions, which is what it's all about.

Can't wait for part two.

Colin Wilson
Seattle, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

I knew Lisa in Law School, we were in the same 1st year law school section. I am now a prosector in Las Cruces New Mexico.

After observing your show I noticed that the practice of criminal work is the same through out the country. Heavy caseloads, not much time to prepare, and often you are more plea bargaining then taking a case to trial. However, you are in court more than any other practice of law, and I could not think of practicing any other type of law, and it seems Lisa would agree with me on that point.

Jacinto Palomino
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Dear FRONTLINE,

Real Justice, was the most realistic depiction of the criminal justice system I have ever seen. As a veteran Assistant Public Defender, it was difficult to watch because it was so much like being at work. The prosecutors in the Boston courtrooms are just like the prosecutors here in Florida-some are arrogant jerks and some try to do the right thing.

The defense attorneys, hardworking, sometimes obnoxious, and a bit eccentric depict the defense bar in my community. Real Justice also had an interesting depiction of the defendants, people that are not necessarily "bad" people, but people that have not had alot of breaks in life. I love working in the criminal justice system-you see every facet of life-from the human suffering where you deal with the violent and sexual offenses to the humorous cases where I had a client that was charged with stealing a monkey. try saying that a couple times in open court!

The system has its problems-the subconcious racism, police officers who "testi-lie", the focus on incarceration instead of rehabilitation, defense attorneys who don't care about their clients and on and on. However, I can say that based on my experience, the jury "gets it right" almost all of the time and that is why I America has the best systemt of justice in the world. Keep up the good work Frontline!

Ray Rodgers
West Palm Beach, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

A wonderful show. When my friends ask me if I like being a Public Defender, or why I like being a Public Defender so much, only part of the answer is being able to represent someone to the hilt, wading through fascinating human interest stories, and the like. One reason so perfectly captured by your show was just the level of interesting things that I see and do every day, the characters, the judges, the prosecutors, and of course, my clients. Finally, the daily challenges and resolutions give me great satisfaction.

I have never been able to adequately explain to friends how a typical day goes, which is interesting because I love going to work every day. Frontline showed what makes my job so great, interesting and rewarding.

Greg Apt
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm a prosecutor in Vancouver, and can say that your show truly represented what we do every day. I can say there is one exception: Our caseload is heavier and our days are more hectic, and I love every minute of it.

Brian MacFarlane
Vancouver, British Columbia

more
home | what's it like elsewhere? | viktor theiss | lisa medeiros | behind the scenes
stats & facts | discussion | video excerpt | synopsis | credits
press reaction | tapes & transcripts | FRONTLINE | pbs online | wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Losing IraqJuly 29th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS