PBS NewsHour’s Podcast Series “Broken Justice” Named a Finalist in American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Awards

Washington, DC (March 12, 2020) — The American Bar Association named the PBS NewsHour podcast series “Broken Justice” a finalist for the 2020 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts in the Radio category. The competition recognizes outstanding work that fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system.

Hosted by senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz and general assignment producer Frank Carlson, “Broken Justice” examines the public defense crisis through the lens of one Missouri man’s 22-yearlong quest to overturn his murder conviction. The series received support from Public Welfare Foundation and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 

Winners will be announced on May 20, 2020. 

“Broken Justice” follows “The Last Continent” as the NewsHour’s second original podcast series, under the leadership of podcast producer Vika Aronson.

Series credits:
Host: Amna Nawaz
Reporter: Frank Carlson
Podcast Producer: Vika Aronson
Editors: Emily Carpeaux and Erica R. Hendry
Production Assistants: Maea Lenei Buhre and Chris Ford
Engineer: Tom Satterfield
Executive Producer: Sara Just
Additional Contributors: Travis Daub, Vanessa Dennis, and James Y. Williams

“Broken Justice” Episode Descriptions

Episode 1: Triage

Can an attorney handle more than 100 criminal cases at a time? That’s the reality for a public defender like Jeff Esparza, who represents defendants unable to afford a private lawyer in Kansas City. The public defender system in Missouri — like many across the nation — is underfunded, understaffed and overworked, and attorneys say their clients are slipping through the cracks.

Episode 2: How did we get here?

Poor Americans didn’t always have the right to an attorney. It all started with a pool hall robbery in Florida, and an unlikely legal advocate: a poor drifter named Clarence Earl Gideon. Gideon brought the fight for free counsel to the Supreme Court more than 50 years ago — and won. But all these years later, despite that victory, the promise of Gideon goes unfulfilled every day, and in 1996, Ricky Kidd found out first-hand what that meant when he was charged with murder.

Episode 3: When things go wrong

The American justice system is based around the idea that you can get to the truth when two opposing sides make their cases in court. But what happens if your defense attorney is so overloaded they can’t handle the case that could cost you your freedom? What happens when the most important testimony goes unheard or when the evidence that could prove your innocence goes unseen? These failures aren’t hypothetical. We reveal how the defense system failed Ricky Kidd. 

Episode 4: Public defenders fight back 

The most common tool used to attack problems in public defender systems is the class action lawsuit. But what if there’s a better strategy? Steve Hanlon, a longtime advocate for systemic legal reform, has a big idea about big data. Follow how Hanlon’s data changed things for public defenders in Missouri, and ultimately led to a state-wide showdown with the governor.

Episode 5: Where do we go from here?

It turns out, providing funding to hire more lawyers is just one possible answer. We take a closer look at St. Louis County’s new prosecutor, and how what he’s doing to change criminal justice could help address how public defenders do their jobs. Plus, after 23 years behind bars, and a crushing defeat in 2009, Ricky Kidd gets a new day in court. 

Epilogue: Life after life in prison

Ricky Kidd is finally free — thanks to his pro bono legal team, led by law professor Sean O’Brien. In this bonus episode, Ricky and Sean tell us about adjusting to life after prison and we talk through some loose ends from the case. Also, we ask Ricky what gives him hope for reform in the criminal justice system.