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What’s it about?

"Law and Order" follows the exploits of a regular cast of lawyers and cops as they track a crime from police investigation to prosecution by the District Attorney’s Office. This is a unique concept - the first half of each show takes us to the scene of the crime and on the trail of the perpetrator; the second half focuses on the courtroom as the perpetrator faces court. As we are told at the beginning of each show:

"In the criminal justice system the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."

One of the better features of the show is that the bad guys sometimes get away with their crimes. The lawyers at Law in the Lounge can tell you that this is a lot closer to what happens in the real world than television producers generally let on! And sometimes you can’t help but admire the ingenuity of the criminals who manage to elude a successful prosecution.

"Law and Order" often takes its cue from American headlines, so you might experience a sense of deja vu as a plot unfolds. Set and filmed in New York City, this show has become a favourite of American audiences and critics alike. But the formula has remained straightforward since the show’s debut in 1990, which nowadays may be comforting to long-suffering audiences tired of extravagant plot changes contrived by producers bored with their own product (remember when Douglas Brachman started sleeping with his dead father’s lover in "L.A. Law"?) So, in some ways, this is really the best of both worlds: a meat-and -potatoes format coupled with an interesting concept, and it shows in the consistent quality of the program.

"Law and Order" does not delve too far into the private lives of its characters. This may be because there isn’t enough time after the villain has been found and tried, or it may be part of the formula, but either way we can’t tell you too much about the characters’ lives after hours. Yes, we’ve heard the heavy sighs every time Detective Briscoe mentions one of his ex-wives, Detective Logan apparently had an active sex life, and yes, Rey has clearly been in hot water with Mrs. Curtis due to an extra-marital indiscretion, but otherwise things are pretty quiet on the home fronts. It was quite an eye-opener to see Lennie's daughter in the final show of the 1997/98 series. Given the real life switches that have taken place in the cast and crew, we’d have to say that the melodrama is more behind the camera than in front! For more of the personal stuff you'll have to check out this show's first cousin, "Law & Order - SVU".

Who's it about?

Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach)
Briscoe is a cynic, so don’t look for an in-depth analysis of the world’s inhumanity in this veteran of the New York Police. He’s seen it all, probably too much. Thankfully the cynicism is camouflaged in a mock derision, often entertaining in a wry kind of way. Briscoe understands his job, and it is perhaps unfortunate that he sees the street as pretty much a reflection of what people are really made of. This is one cop that will never take early retirement, especially when he’s paying the alimony he’s always complaining about.

Detective Eddie Green
Yet another partner for the ever reliable Lennie, Jesse is a pretty intense fellow who is a lot more complex than his predecessors. Nicknamed "Fast Eddie" by his father, there have been complaints about his rugged style during his time on the job. This is not surprising once you check out his form - a short fuse, some unsuitable vices and a way in interviews that sometimes gets under Lennie's skin.

Nora Lewin (District Attorney)
Nora joins the group of prosecuting attorneys as a replacement for poor Adam Schiff. It's not clear whether she will be staying on, as the Mayor introduces her as an interim appointment. She's a different type than the ever-worrying Adam (who is missed) - not the furrowed brow for Nora, she seems more assertive and trusting in the judgement of her charges.

Adam Schiff (District Attorney)
The crusty old District Attorney, Adam Schiff, has seen all there is to see in his many years as a prosecuting lawyer. We don’t know how old he is, but he’s got to be well past the age when his superannuation has kicked in. He reminds us of that rare type who live to work - where would he be without his job? Well, we can’t really see him taking the steam with his retired buddies and swapping war stories of the good old days. Nevertheless, here at Law in the Lounge we think he might have reached his use-by date. We can’t help thinking he was happier with the previous Executive District Attorney, Ben Stone, who was that little more conservative and reticent than the new boy McCoy. Might be time to write those memoirs, Adam.

It now appears that Adam has left to negotiate reparations for Holocaust survivors at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Vienna.

Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty)
The diffident Stone is the consummate public defender. He cares about his work; he hardly mentions his home life, which is to tell us he’s a workaholic; he has a father-son relationship with the District Attorney Adam Schiff; he has a respectful and completely hands-off relationship with assistant attorney Claire Kincaid (who knows her place is to sit at his feet and learn as much as she can). Here at Law in the Lounge we liked the dependable Mr Stone, and we were sorry to see him leave the DA’s Office in an earlier series.

Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston)
We have always been ambivalent about Jack McCoy - and while we’re at it, why did Ben Stone disappear so unceremoniously and without a decent television burial? When Law in the Lounge heard that Ben Stone was to be replaced (and we liked Ben’s style of lawyering), we were at least hopeful that Jack McCoy (played by the excellent Sam Waterston) might well fill the patent leather shoes of his predecessor. Even after all this time we're still missing Ben, though McCoy has clearly been a hit in the U.S where "Law and Order" has been significantly elevated in the ratings - top 10 in its 1998 American series. Jack is obviously a good lawyer, especially convincing when addressing the jury, but he’s also a little too smug for our liking. And he won't get points for his lack of diplomacy with his mates in the police force.

Detective Reynaldo "Rey" Curtis (Benjamin Bratt)
Curtis replaced Briscoe’s long time partner in the sixth season. He seems to be a little humourless, and perhaps not an obvious choice to partner Lennie, so it was interesting to see how the relationship developed. He’s a family man, honest, true – yeah, all those virtuous qualities that Lennie scorns. Of course, we also know he dallied in a bit of extra curricular sex at the end of the 1997/98 series - a pretty big chink in his armour. We have to say, though, it was a bit of a shock to see him cross himself when he viewed a body in the morgue!

Jamie Ross (Carey Lowell)
The new woman in the DA's office, replacing the tragically killed Claire. She is made of altogether tougher stuff. Yes, the packaging is glamorous, but those steely eyes will stare down a murderer or a corrupt cop without hesitation. If anything, she's a little too confident, and it will be interesting to see whether she gets taken down a peg or two. We haven't really warmed to her, and as one of our loyal readers pointed out in an email to Law In The Lounge, why do the female lawyers always have to be good-looking?

Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson)
She's the boss of the House, and though there is a fair amount of compassion in her dealings with the cops and the public, she's fairly steely when pushed only a little too far. In particular there have been some notable run-ins with the DAs.

Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks)
He was Executive DA Ben Stone's offsider for a few years, and though he was mainly kept in the background, he was clearly an exceptional lawyer and very quick on the uptake. In many instances he was more investigator than lawyer, leaving the legal duties to his superior. We never did find out much about his background or family life.

Assistant D.A. Abbie Charmichael (Angie Harmon )
She's ambitious, independent, good-looking, and comes via a successful stint in the Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office, and replaces Jamie at the DA's. She's not averse to challenging the opinion of her boss Jack McCoy. There's that Southern drawl, the toss of the hair and a fair degree of attitude. She's single, and given Jack's track record, who knows?

Who's who?

Jerry Orbach (Detective Lennie Briscoe)
Orbach was born in the same territory he made his own decades later in "Law and Order". Like so many nomadic Americans, he moved around the country until he went to the renowned Actor’s Studio under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg. We think this shows in his style, the Brandoesque disdain and gritty realism so reminiscent of other devotees of the Method style of acting popularised by Strasberg. Orbach did his apprenticeship in the theatre, mainly Off-Broadway, until he made it to the Great White Way (the real Broadway) in 1961. He showed his form in "Guys and Dolls", which brought him a Tony nomination (the theatre Oscars) for the role of Sky Masterson (also played by Brando in the movie version); he later won this award for Neil Simon’s "Promises, Promises". He’s been no slouch in films, either, particularly remembered for a star turn in Woody Allen’s brilliant "Crimes and Misdemeanours", where he played the shady brother of Martin Landau. On the small screen he’s been nominated for an Emmy for the "Golden Girls" and Neil Simon’s "Broadway Bound".

Sam Waterston (Jack McCoy)
Orbach need not look over his shoulder given his own track record, but Waterston was a star long before he set foot on the "Law and Order" to replace Michael Moriarty as the Executive District Attorney . He’s done it all - an Academy Award nomination as journalist Sidney Schanberg in "The Killing Fields" and Emmy nominations for "I’ll Fly Away", which had an abortive run on Aussie TV. He trained in two pretty respectable universities: the Yale Dramatic Association and the Sorbonne in Paris. Like Orbach, he did his time Off-Broadway, particularly in Shakespearian drama, and soon made the transition to film in "The Great Gatsby", for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award.

And again like Orbach, he has featured in Woody Allen’s regular ensemble in "Interiors", "Hannah and Her Sisters", and ironically together with Orbach in "Crimes and Misdemeanours" (great title, great film - check it out on video). He also distinguished himself opposite Katherine Hepburn in "The Glass Menagerie". He will soon be seen in the biggest part of them all, as the President of the United States in a feature film with Charlie Sheen and the wonderful Donald Sutherland.

Jesse L Martin (Detective Eddie Green)
Jesse joins "Law and Order" in its 10th season. He is well known to readers of these pages as Dr Greg Butters, the love interest of Ally McBeal in the show of the same name. He is a graduate of NYU and was an original cast member of the hit Broadway show "Rent". He has a number of other theatre credits, including Shakespeare, and is seen in the made-for-TV movie "Deep In My Heart" alongside Anne Bancroft and Gloria Reuben. He also starred as an alien (yes, an alien!) in an episode of the "X-Files" written and directed by David Duchovny. You might also have caught him in another Wolf Films production "New York Undercover".

Carey Lowell (Jamie Ross)
We waved goodbye to the talented Jill Hennessy and greeted the new Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross. She’s a lot more ambitious and forceful than her sometimes reticent predecessor, which is a good thing given McCoy’s bull-in-a-china-shop attitude to anyone who gets in his way, even if they’re in the same office. Lowell may be familiar to you as a Bond Girl ("Licensed To Kill" - yes, she’s another of those fabulous looking lawyers) and more meaty roles in "Leaving Las Vegas", "Sleepless in Seattle", and the John Cleese "equal" (not sequel) "Fierce Creatures".

Dianne West (Nora Lewin)
She is a two-time Oscar winner (for Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Bullets Over Broadway"); also an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award winner. Here at Law4U we love her work - who can forget the trials of the mother in "Parenthood" (especially the moment she discovers illicit photos of her daughter), or the sympathetic lead in Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands"? We're not quite sure how she was enticed to "Law and Order", but what the hell, it can only be a good move.

Michael Moriarty (Ben Stone)
He achieved early fame in the celebrated 1973 film "Bang The Drum Slowly", where he matched it convincingly with Robert DeNiro. He was 32 at the time, and perhaps we might have expected more in the following years. Not that he’s been quiet: he’s been in about twenty movies, including such gems as "The Last Detail" and Clint Eastwood’s mythic "Pale Rider". Ben Stone suits his minimalist style, and it’s no wonder Moriarty was disgruntled to find himself out of a job at this later stage of his career.

Richard Brooks (ADA Paul Robinette)
There are many viewers of this show, and others seeing the reruns on pay-TV for the first time, who look at this actor and wonder why he ever left the show. He showed real style in bringing exceptional depth to a supporting role, and unfortunately does not seem to have turned up in the mainstream media since (anyone out there seen him around?). Apparently he was replaced to create a greater balance in the (then) all male cast.

S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Anita Van Buren)
grew up with an ambivalent relationship to the police, not surprising given the fact she was an African American in the Detroit of the sixties. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and then moved to New York, where she appeared in many off-Broadway productions, and has also taken good roles in a few movies like "Terminator" mark two.

Benjamin Bratt (Detective Reynaldo "Rey" Curtis)
This is no inexperienced actor trying his luck on television. On the contrary, he has already been in a string of movies: "The River Wild"; "Clear and Present Danger" (directed by Australian Phil Noyce); "Demolition Man" (Stallone and Sandra Bullock); "Texas" (TV miniseries). He met the Executive Producer of "Law and Order" when he starred in the series "Nasty Boys". He has also appeared in the 4 hour television miniseries "Texas".

Angie Harmon (Assistant D.A. Abbie Charmichael)
She's arrived from that other great legal show "Baywatch Nights" - okay, okay, so we're alluding to the fact that she's another in the long line of good-looking ADAs in this show. She replaces Cary Lowell (ADA Jamie Ross) at the beginning of the ninth season. She was a fashion model before parading her talents on "Baywatch Nights". She can be seen in the movie "Lawn Dogs" which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, directed by Australian John Duigan.

The gossip

Mccoy and Claire
Yes, there’s some sexual tension there, and no, it never went anywhere. For one thing, wasn’t he a little too old for the youngish Claire? Couldn’t she do better than an ageing maverick in the District Attorney’s Office? And isn’t he a man with a past and a reputation to match? One of our readers emailed us to explain that there certainly was a relationship there, and in watching some repeats on pay-TV, it looks like there was more than a professional alliance. An episode in the sixth season, "Trophy", seemed to have more than a few references to this illusive affair - dinner dates, Claire's apparent knowledge of Jack's former lovers, and a straightforward comment by an old flame that says it all. And in another sixth season episode, the traumatic "Aftershock", Jack and Claire seem to be driving to work after a night together (tragedy is in the offing, little do they know).

McCoy and Schiff
The repartee isn’t quite as sharp as it was in past series, and we’ve noticed a certain strain. The previous Executive District Attorney Ben Stone treated Schiff as a mentor, a role the latter clearly cherished. McCoy is not cut from the same cloth. He’s arrogant, doesn’t always play by the rules that Schiff reveres, and is perhaps a little too familiar with the ladies. Sometimes you get the feeling that McCoy sees him as a dinosaur - sometimes we think he’s right!

McCoy and Charmichael
There doesn't seem to be much going on here, but who knows? He's a bull at a gate, and she's constantly trying to prove herself. Is he a father figure - we doubt McCoy would appreciate that!

Briscoe and Logan
Pity this partnership has been fractured. They play nicely off one another - Briscoe the arch cynic and Logan the younger man who retains a sense of fair play and trust (clearly Briscoe is going to be right a lot more often!). They must be pretty fit, because they seem to walk from one side of Manhattan in half an episode, and why can’t they ever find the time for a decent lunch?

Curtis and Briscoe
This is the new alliance, and another turn at partnering opposites – Lennie is middle-aged, much easier going, liberal and divorced – Rey is conservative, young, happily married and very much a family man (at least that's the way it was at the time they teamed up) - finally, one of the cops has real life children waiting at home. Not only a family man, but a practising Catholic Latino with three daughters – certainly nothing like Lennie’s background! Lennie has a great dig at him early on – "I’ve got ties older than you," he quips. We don't think they really get along, and Lennie seems especially unhappy with his partner's straitlaced attitudes. Great episode in the 1998/99 series when Curtis is proved right about a corrupt detective that Briscoe wants to leave alone.

Behind the scenes

Dick Wolf, the creator of the series, has been honoured with a number of prestigious awards including the 1998 Television Showman of the Year Award from the Publicist's Guild of America. Wolf is also the author of the excellent feature movie "School Ties" (worth a look on video). Wolf was previously a staff writer on the spiritual godfather of this show, "Hill Street Blues".

There have been some dramatic changes in the cast lately. Don’t be too concerned, because from what we’ve seen the show continues its tradition of quality prime time drama (not so "prime time" in Australia, where Channel Ten inexplicably used to chop and change the schedule apparently at will). Let’s look at some of the changes, beginning with the departure of Chris Noth, the actor who plays Detective Mike Logan.

Did Noth leave or was he pushed? From what he’s said in the press, the latter would be the best bet. It seems that Noth has opened his mouth about the show’s direction once too often to suit the producers, and as David Caruso discovered in the celebrated "NYPD Blue", no actor is indispensable (sounds like working in the real world, doesn’t it?). Noth has been vocal about the way he was sacked, claiming the pink slip was delivered by a lesser messenger other than the boss. It seems that the biggest disappointment is from the female fans, who have deluged the producers with complaints about the departure of the good looking star. The word from the set is that Noth has always bagged the greatest volume of fan mail.

And what happened to Michael Moriarty, until the 1997 Australian season the DA who has now been replaced by the veteran Sam Waterston? He got into a well-publicised brawl with (real life) American Attorney-General Janet Reno about the censorship of violence on television. Moriarty claims this was not the reason for his departure. In the push and shove of prime time television, he believes he got the sacking you get when you’re not really sacked - in other words, he chose to leave when there wasn’t a real choice about it, the old "quit before I’m pushed two-step". And he is none too happy that Sam Waterston is said by the producers to be a sexier alternative to the dour character he played, though it’s true that there was never a hint of flirtation in his relationship with associate Claire - something that was rectified in the hiring of Waterston.

Carey Lowell (Jamie Ross, the new addition to the DA's office) replaces the now departed (and dead) Claire. Let's give her a season to settle in, but come on guys, does every female DA have to be stunningly attractive and dressed to the nine's in Armani?

And while we're talking about the newbies (and Armani), Benjamin Bratt has been seen on the arm of Julia Roberts.

Angie Harmon has been linked with Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Troy Aikman (she barracks for the team as well).

Carolyn McCormick doesn't appear as often as she once did, which is unfortunate given her excellent portrayal as the independent minded criminal psychiatrist Dr Elizabeth Olivert.

Mike Post, the composer in residence for all Bochco's shows, did the theme music for this show. Included in his catalogue are "LA Law", "Hill St.", "Doogie Howser", and "Brooklyn South". What else? How about "Quantum Leap", and the "A-Team". By the way, he produced Dolly Parton's "Nine To Five".

It would come as no surprise to our readers that Angie Harmon was previously a model, posing on the cover of glossy mags like "GQ" and Cosmopolitan".

For those of us who believe that Briscoe and Logan were the A-team of the "Order" component of the show, it was a pleasure to see him resurrect his career in "Sex and The City". Well worth a look.

Chris Noth, beside his role in "Sex and the City", has also opened a restaurant in Manhattan called (appropriately) "The Cutting Room".

The facts

Despite the recent changes to the show, or perhaps because of them, "Law and Order" has really beaten the odds. Not only has it managed to stoke its fires over seven seasons, but it has recently been renewed for another two seasons in the U.S. And more importantly, last year "Law and Order" achieved its best ratings of an already long and successful run.

Executive Producer and creator Dick Wolf has copped a lot of the blame for the surprise changes to the cast, not that he seems particularly concerned. He calls the show "actor proof", and we think he’s probably right. If you add it all up, "Law and Order" has seen the departure of six major cast members in the last six years. As we said earlier, this is a plot based series, so they can get away with this musical chairs as long as the writing remains strong.

Here’s a casting call of the missing (though some survive in the current Australian incarnation):

  • Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) (Seasons 1,2,3,4,5)
  • Sergeant Max Greevey (George Dzundza) (Season 1)
  • Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) (Season 1,2,3)
  • Sergeant Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino - father of Academy Award winner Mira) (Season 2,3)
  • Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) (Season 1,2,3,4)
  • Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks) (Seasons 1,2,3)
  • Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennesy) (Seasons 4,5,6)
  • Detective Reynaldo "Rey" Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) (Seasons 6,7,8,9)

Did you know that "Law and Order" is now the longest running drama series on American television? Well, you do now!

In the run to the 1997 Emmys, "Law and Order" bagged 5 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding lead actor in a drama series Sam Waterston; Outstanding cinematography for a series. In a surprise finish, it beat out the highly rated "ER" and "NYPD Blue" to be named Outstanding Drama Series – congratulations.

At the 50th Emmy Awards "Law and Order" was nominated for four trophies, including Outstanding Drama and Supporting Actor for Steven Hill. Let's face it, no one knits their brow as well as Steve!

The pilot of the show, "Everyone's Favourite Bagman", was filmed in 1988 for the CBS network. It was not picked up until NBC gave it a go in 1990-91.

The show has noe been renewed till 2005 - great news for us fans.

The legal point

In the episode "Blue Bamboo" a murder of a nightclub owner leads to the arrest of a singer who had worked for the deceased. A smart lawyer employs the "battered-woman syndrome" as a defence.

This might be said to be a novel approach to murder – in essence, it refers to a recently developed defence that lawyers use on behalf of female murder suspects who have been repeatedly forced to endure physical or emotional abuse by a partner who is the victim of the murder.

This defence usually appears in cases where women have become so demoralised by repeated abuse that they believe they can only control the violence by killing the abuser. This is not a defence for a crime of passion – usually it is used in cases where the crime is premeditated. It is therefore open to the prosecution to ask why the woman did not end the relationship rather than kill the deceased.

The defence was not really allowed in the United States until 1979 – now a number of American jurisdictions allow expert testimony on the syndrome in murder trials. This is a real departure from established criminal law practice, because in the past self-defence was only available to people who believed their lives were in immediate jeopardy, usually in the midst of being actually attacked. In Canada the Supreme Court has decided to allow the defence in murder trials.

An interesting twist to this defence recently occurred in Australia. A West Australian Supreme Court allowed the defence to be used in a case of a gay man accused of the murder of his abusive partner. There was a long history of domestic violence, which the judge was prepared to take into account even though the murder occurred whilst the victim was asleep. In the end the defendant was sentenced to a jail term. If you want to read more about this issue, check out our Lawspot "Guilty Or Not".

In the eighth season episode "Thrill", there are problems when two defendants finger each other as the murderer, and the one conclusive piece of evidence is the recording of a confession to a priest. This raises the issue of what lawyers call "privilege" i.e. the set of rules that exclude certain evidence about conversations or other communications between people and certain types of professionals. The most usually cited is "legal professional privilege". This means that confidential communications between lawyers and their clients in relation to legal advice cannot be used in evidence in court. But what about conversations that take place in the confessional, or just plain confessions made by a person to their religious advisors? [By the way, if you want to know the legal meaning of a "religion", the High Court says it is a system of ideas and practices usually involving a belief in the metaphysical.] The Commonwealth Evidence Act (Australia) section 127 states that: "A person who is or was a member of the clergy of any church or religious denomination is entitled to refuse to divulge that a religious confession was made, or the contents of a religious confession made, to the person when a member of the clergy". "Religious confession" means a confession made by a person to a member of the clergy in the member's professional capacity according to the ritual of the church or religious denomination concerned. So there.

In the season opener for the tenth season, "Gunshow", a shooting spree in Central Park sends Briscoe and his new partner, Detective Eddie Green, on a hunt for the murder weapon's origins. Unfortunately they cannot make enough of a case against the killer (he cops a plea due to an obstinate judge - "he's set the bar higher than you can jump on a pogo stick") but McCoy takes the bull by the horns and charges the gun manufacturer. How does he do this? Ingeniously, he argues that the manufacturer was aware that their gun was being modified for use as an automatic (illegal) weapon, and so they are so negligent that they are complicit in the homicides that result from the use of the modified weapon. Under Australian law it is also possible to act so recklessly that you may be charged with murder. You don't mean to kill someone, but you set up the circumstances that clearly allow the death to occur. You still have to foresee that some serious harm will take place (either death or injury), although the degree of the harm needed to establish reckless murder differs from State to State. Nevertheless, to be convicted, you have to know that your actions will probably cause death or serious injury; that you take the risky action anyway; and that the decision to take that risk is unjustified.

For instance, if you deliberately drive through a red light late at night and at high speed, you have taken a very serious (and reckless) risk - it would be difficult to argue that you did not appreciate the substantial risk of killing another driver or pedestrian. If you let your dogs loose in the street, and you know they are dangerous and perhaps capable of mauling, it should not come as a surprise if they seriously harm someone. In this case you may be convicted of manslaughter by "criminal negligence". This is because you committed a negligent act (as opposed to one that is "reckless" and more likely to do harm), but you did it without taking care in a situation where there was a likelihood of death or serious injury. On the other hand, if your attack dog is trained to kill strangers and you let it loose, that may amount to murder.

A similar dilemma is found in the opening episode of the eleventh series, when a suspicious fire kills an intellectually and physically disabled 12 year old boy, and the investigation eventually leads to the mother. Jack wants to charge the mother with recklessness (depraved indifference) but faces an old predicament - what is the point when the jury will never convict a mother who has lived a nightmare existence for years? Does this mean juries are flawed? It would be fair to say there is widespread support for using juries in criminal cases. If you ask the average person in the street, most would say that juries safeguard the liberties of the public, and that twelve people called at random are able to apply a reasonable person's standard to criminal accusations. Let's be honest, the average person has little (or no) trust in lawyers, and if they are going to be tried for their sins, they would rather their peers were making the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence. So tampering too much with the jury system may, in all likelihood, affect the public's confidence in the administration of justice. True, we expect judges to ensure that criminal trials are conducted in a fair manner, but in the final analysis, we want to leave the verdict in the hands of the people.

Our verdict

This is clearly a superior television drama. It has been on air in America since 1980, and against the odds it has never rated better than in recent seasons. Amazingly enough it has now been renewed till 2005! Its strength is the ensemble (and revolving) cast that support the convincing plots. The stories are rarely sensationalised, in fact they may sometimes be a little too tame for audiences used to the teary melodrama of an "L.A Law" or the grittiness of "The Practice". What this show lacks is a sense of humour - let's not quibble, though Lennie does a nice turn in droll observations, particularly about his failed marriages and endless alimony payments. We never miss an episode, at least when Channel Ten manages to show it two weeks in a row in the same time slot! We say that Channel Ten should continue to give this excellent lawyers and cops show the regular viewing it deserves. And for those of you who have missed past episodes, it plays regularly on cable.

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Read this: The legal information contained above is intended to be general information about the law. It is not a substitute for legal and other professional advice. Lawscape Communications P/L does not accept responsibility for loss to any person, who either acts or does not act because of this information.