Al Jazeera America logo AJAMBeginning this Sunday, May 18, cable news channel Al Jazeera America launches an all-new original documentary series that “explores the state of our legal system.”

Titled “The System with Joe Berlinger,” the eight-part series is directed by documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger.

The series begins with an examination of the justice system’s use of confessions. The other topics will be: mandatory sentencing, forensics, eyewitness identification, juvenile justice, policing strategies, parole and prosecutorial integrity.

Joe Berlinger

Joe Berlinger

More information is here.

Before I hear from concerned readers (whose hackles may rise at mention of the Al Jazeera brand), I add: I have not been privy to any preview tape, so I cannot prejudge whether and how a balanced presentation is achieved. The director, Joe Berlinger, is an experienced journalist, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

You may want to read a Q&A with Berlinger.

Here is a trailer for the series. (It is long on production values and short on substance, so it may not tip your viewing habits one way or the other.)

By entering your ZIP Code on the website, you can determine if the channel is available in your viewing area.

Do any of you intend to watch? I am (gasp!) cable-free, so I am unlikely to find a way to see it. But if you do watch it, I’d appreciate hearing your response to the first one that airs Sunday. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition. Each of them is featured in our May issue, which will be available in late April.

Because of obvious restrictions, our music winner’s work cannot be published in the magazine. But it is available, here, for you to hear and enjoy. Well done, Doug Passon.

I previously wrote about a film of Doug’s here. Read more about it below.

Here is Doug’s background and bio:

DOUG PASSON has been playing guitar and writing songs since the age of 14. He has been practicing criminal defense in the Valley for almost 17 years. His other creative passion is film. He is President & Creative Director of D Major Films (dmajorfilms.com), which produces commercial and narrative documentaries on topics and for organizations focused on fostering social change. He also teaches and consults with legal professionals nationwide on how to use moving pictures as a tool of persuasion in their court cases.

“No Tomorrow” is a meditation on the joy and pain of living, and a call to live more deeply by embracing the uncertainty of the future.

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

As Doug says, he wrote the words, melody and music. “The song is performed by Dan Nichols, a singer/songwriter based out of Raleigh, N.C., and a dear friend of mine. Dan is the subject of a documentary film I recently directed called ‘Road to Eden’ (www.roadtoedenfilm.com). The song is a reminder that life is fragile and temporary and if we are to live fully, we must live fully in the moment. This was inspired, in part, by the life and death of an incredible lawyer, mentor and friend, Darrow Soll.”

Here is Doug’s winning song, “No Tomorrow.”

And here are a few photos of Doug at the magazine photo shoot.

Doug Passon being photographed by Karen Shell, foreground, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon being photographed by Karen Shell, foreground, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon passes the time between shoots, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon passes the time between shots, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

prison_green haven NYYou may not have known that a Prison Awareness Club was a thing. But in a nation apparently committed to that growth industry, it only makes good sense that college students might engage on the topic of corrections.

This Friday, March 28, the third annual Prison Education Conference will be staged at ASU.

The all-day event is sponsored by the Department of English, the School of Social Transformation, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The free event (open to the public) will include speakers, discussion panels and the screening of what looks to be a compelling film.

Writer Sought

I may be able to attend, but I currently have a conflict. If you are a law student, student of the law (most generally defined), or a lawyer—and you are NOT one of the event organizers—I invite you to contact me to discuss a guest blog post. It might cover the entire event, or perhaps be just a review of the film Zero Percent. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Keynote Speaker

The conference includes a keynote by author Marshall Frank. As a news story describes his work:

“This year’s conference features keynote speaker Marshall Frank, a retired police captain from Miami, Fla., who led more than a thousand homicide investigations during his career and has since written hundreds of op-eds and articles about the state of America’s justice system.”

“In his most recent book ‘Criminal InJustice in America,’ Frank explores inequities of the prison system, “a multi-billion-dollar industry, which would collapse if there was a sudden downturn in inmate residency.” Perhaps that’s why the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but a staggering 25 percent of its prisoners. Critics have hailed ‘Criminal InJustice’ as ‘challenging,’ ‘thought-provoking’ and “daring.’”

Read the complete ASU News story here.

Panels Cover Prison Education

The complete agenda is here.

Among the speakers will be a representative from the Arizona Department of Corrections, and his compatriot from the New Mexico prison system. The organizers also feature the insights of educators from three Arizona prison complexes.

A second keynote will be Sean Pica, head of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. And it is the Hudson connection that may yield one of the day’s most enlightening aspects—a film.

Zero Percent Film To Screen

The film trailer for Zero Percent explains—a little—about the challenges faced by incarcerated individuals. Watch the trailer here.

More information about Hudson Link is here. And you can follow their posts on Facebook too.

The event location is the University Club on the ASU campus. A scalable map is here.

RSVP: peac.org@asu.edu

flier Prison Education Conference 2014_opt

Hermans House movie posterBeginning tonight on most PBS stations (including in Arizona), a documentary film will air that describes one inmate’s long confinement in solitary.

Herman Wallace is in a Louisiana penitentiary, where he has spent decades in solitary. Here is a description of the movie and his situation:

“Herman Wallace may be the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in the United States—he’s spent more than 40 years in a 6-by-9-foot cell in Louisiana. Imprisoned in 1967 for a robbery he admits, he was subsequently sentenced to life for a killing he vehemently denies. Herman’s House is a moving account of the remarkable expression his struggle found in an unusual project proposed by artist Jackie Sumell. Imagining Wallace’s ‘dream home’ began as a game and became an interrogation of justice and punishment in America. The film takes us inside the duo’s unlikely 12-year friendship, revealing the transformative power of art. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).”

Want to know more about the movie? Go here and here.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to screen the film, and I posted my review here.

For a quicker (and less verbose) synopsis, watch the trailer below.

Hermans House movie posterTonight, a film will be screened at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art that may interest lawyers and many others who seek to examine the U.S. corrections system. (Jump to the bottom for times, tickets, etc.)

Herman’s House is a feature documentary that explores what the filmmakers understatedly call “the unlikely friendship between a New York artist and one of America’s most famous inmates as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project.”

The inmate is Herman Joshua Wallace, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison on a bank robbery sentence. While he served his sentence, though, he and a fellow prisoner were accused of murdering an Angola (La.) prison guard, which landed him in solitary confinement. Though claims have been made that he may be innocent of the death charge (including claims by a widow of the guard), he has remained in solitary confinement for decades.

The film opens with an artist forming and sanding a uniquely shaped object: Is it an egg? Perhaps a stylized womb?
(more…)

My plan for today was to describe a fascinating movie that will be screened tomorrow night (Thursday). But then I stayed up far too late watching every possible election return (“Don’t turn it off! The Snohomish County School Board votes are being tallied!”). Democracy can be exhausting. And so, instead, the film update will come tomorrow. Today, I offer you some news from right here in the State Bar news world.

Here are two developments that could help improve your access to legal information.

Did you know:

State Bar of Arizona eLegal Technology Newsletter

Gotta go; the recount for the Artichoke, Minnesota, justice of the peace race is heating up. See you tomorrow.

The Icehouse: Sufficiently spooky

It is Change of Venue Friday, so I share with you an event (tonight!) that melds the law, murder and cinema. And to add to the mix, it will be a seriously spooky venue.

What am I talking about? Friday evening will be the last (Phoenix) chance to see the documentary “Of Dolls and Murder.”

Open to the sky: The Icehouse “Cathedral Room”

I wrote about the film before. But that was when it was shown in the comfort of a Scottsdale arts venue. Tonight, the screening will occur in a more suitably shiver-inducing location: the Icehouse in downtown Phoenix.

The film’s “host” is No Festival Required, who tells a little about the organization and some about the movie.

Share the event with others (and invite them too) from here.

The Icehouse—a former warehouse, now an arts and event venue—is at 429 West Jackson Street, Phoenix 85007. Here’s a map:

Or, if you are less Google-minded, here’s a map for the rest of us:

 

I hope to be there. If you see me, please say hi. And let’s compare our movie critiques.

Have a murder-free weekend.

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