This week I found myself stuck at a laundromat without a book and caught a rerun of David Kelly's The Practice. I hadn't seen a full episode before, but while I was at home my dad was a big fan and as he blared the sound at full blast, I heard several episodes.
Despite it's liberal bias, "The Practice" is a great drama. It paints a very realistic picture of criminal defense attorneys and their clients (as realistic of a picture as you can paint without getting boring as a totally realistic lawyer show would spend 90% of the time working out plea bargains and 10% at trial). This episode I saw was about a prison inmate who killed his bunkmate in his sleep. A female attorney tried to get him to plead guilty as he'd signed a confession, his prints were on the murder weapon, and his bunkmate was sleeping.
The prisoner defended himself in court, claiming the common law defense of necessity. He testified that a man serving three life sentences for three prior murders had threatened to kill him unless he slayed his bunkmate. The story (inadvertently I'm sure) raises some very serious problems for the anti-death penalty crowd. What happens to a man when you can't touch him? If he's in for three consecutive life sentences, what else can you do to him with no death penalty deterrent?
The story ends with the prisoner escaping from the courthouse after killing a guard. One thing I do like from what I've seen/heard of the series is that Kelly isn't pretentious and doesn't glamorize criminal defense lawyers. He's quite honest that many of their clients are guilty, that if they are released they will commit more crimes, even against the attorneys that defended them. While it's more gritty than shows like Perry Mason and Matlock, it avoids painting an unrealistic picture of the legal profession and it's clients: Clean cut all-american kids who are wrongly accused were most of them. The degree of honesty Kelly shows is refreshing and it's important that people who may be interested in law get a proper perception of what they're getting into, rather than the glamorized notions provided by Lawyer shows past.