the plea
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press reaction

New York Daily News David Bianculli

"Ofra Bikel examines several cases in this 90-minute documentary on the court system, and it drives home the point -- with depressing ease and persuasiveness -- that what really happens in the courtroom is markedly different from what we see on TV. That's not a big surprise, but the apparent injustices recounted here are full of unexpected admissions, oversights and twists."

TV Guide Matt Roush

"... In the alarming and absorbing documentary 'The Plea' veteran producer Ofra Bikel examines the human toll of these deals, which are said to be invaluable in keeping the legal system from collapsing. ... Matt's Score (0-10): 10"

Philadelphia Daily News Ellen Gray

"... Bikel, who has an eye and ear for storytelling that would do 'The Practice's' David E. Kelley or 'Law and Order's' Dick Wolf proud, has chosen a handful of individuals to illustrate how making a plea bargain -- or refusing one -- changed their lives. ..."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Eric Mink

"... Like most of Bikel's films, 'The Plea' is infuriating. Peeling apart the layers of three cases in Texas and New York, Bikel finds innocent people rotting in jail or scavenging for food and shelter on the street, all thanks to plea bargains coerced from them by sneaky prosecutors, inept and overworked public defenders, and arrogant judges. ..."

Legal Times Joel Chineson

"For practitioners intimate with the mechanics of the criminal justice system, the 'Frontline' documentary 'The Plea' may not hold any revelations. Yet it provides a plangent reminder the system is far from perfect. ..."

Chicago Tribune Steve Johnson

"... a film that, rather than inspiring outrage, forces consideration of a whole range of ambiguities.

"With her series of carefully laid-out narratives, Bikel effectively shows that plea bargains are much more complicated, and subject to manipulation, than they seem on the surface. Most of the time, in the view of her film, the manipulation is not in favor of the defendant. ..."

The Globe and Mail Andrew Ryan

"... The Plea is another new documentary airing on Frontline (PBS, 9 p.m.), which is having one fine season. ...

The film's bold scope of the U.S. legal system depicts a mire of red tape and of futility. There's nothing the incarcerated plea-bargainers can do now but finish their time. They simply fell through the cracks."


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posted june 17, 2004

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