2020 Paley Archive Elements 3840x1536 Banner TOP1 v2
Continue searching the Collection



Continued from T:65970.001. Part two of two. One in this series of programs exploring true crimes and criminals. Court TV's Catherine Crier introduces this special two-part episode, hosted by Ted Koppel. The episode deals with capital punishment, raising questions that have come up in capital cases across the United States. Images in the program include interviews with prisoners, prison scenes, footage of trials, and interviews. In this part, Koppel compares and contrasts the circumstances surrounding capital cases in Texas and Colorado. He opens by discussing the problems that result from pressure on the judicial system to punish criminals quickly and inexpensively. The Texas trial of an alleged murderer is described, with special emphasis on the defendant's choice to plead guilty in the hope of avoiding a death sentence. Koppel interviews former Texas judge Charles Baird, who admits that in most capital cases there are "very serious legal questions about [the prisoners'] guilt or whether the punishment was appropriate." Morris Overstreet, a former judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, argues that the problem in Texas is the dearth of competent lawyers to represent low-income defendants. Examples are given, such as one case in which a defense attorney slept through part of his client's trial. Staff members from the Court of Criminal Appeals talk about the low quality of defense counsel in the cases they review -- yet requests for appeals are continually refused, viewers learn. Defense attorney Jim Marcus argues that the Court of Criminal Appeals "is not concerned about whether people on death row get adequate representation." The presiding judge of the court, Mike McCormick, tells Koppel, "We have a set of rules that we have to follow, and in following those rules sometimes the decision that is made is not one that you and I in common sense would make." Koppel also brings up the problem of false confessions; some defendants are tricked or led into confessing to crimes they didn't commit. Koppel then states that out of 130 scheduled executions in the past five years, the Board of Paroles and Pardons in Texas granted only one clemency. He also says that judges rarely reverse a death penalty. Baird elucidates by explaining that the public is not in favor of reversing capital cases -- and that, since the judges are elected officials, it is in their interest to curry the favor of the public. Next, Koppel describes a very different situation, illustrated by the state of Colorado. Koppel explains that Colorado has the most "aggressive and well funded public-defender system in the country." Incidentally, the program notes, very few people in Colorado end up on death row. Two Colorado public defenders discuss their work, including the capital case against George Woldt and Lucas Salmon, who confessed to raping and murdering college senior Jacine Gielinski. Prosecutors and other officials talk about the case and the way in which the judicial system works in Colorado. Koppel also points out that there are groups of Colorado citizens who champion capital punishment and berate the attorneys who defend violent criminals. He closes the program by arguing, "Guilt, especially in a capital offense, must be the product of a fair and unbiased legal process, in which poverty, race, and politics play no part." Commercials deleted.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by The New York Community Trust - Haas Foundation Fund.


  • NETWORK: Court TV
  • DATE: October 31, 2000 Tuesday 10:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:45:48
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:65970.002
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Capital punishment; False imprisonment; Justice, Administration of
  • SERIES RUN: ABC - TV series, 1980-


  • Tom Bettag … Executive Producer
  • Bonnie Dry … Executive Producer
  • C. Scott Willis … Senior Producer
  • Mary Claude Foster … Producer
  • Gill Parker … Producer
  • Joe Labracio … Associate Producer
  • Greg Macek … Researcher
  • Ted Koppel … Host
  • Catherine Crier … Announcer
  • Charles Baird
  • Jacine Gielinski
  • Jim Marcus
  • Mike McCormick
  • Morris Overstreet
  • Lucas Salmon
  • George Woldt
Continue searching the Collection