A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

The Arts

Casey Anthony: Once in a Lifetime

By Nicole Rowlands

O.J. Simpson. Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The Menendez brothers. Charles Manson. Defendants in famous murder trials, all. Of course, the list would not be complete without…

Casey Anthony.

Voted the most disliked person in America in 2011, the year of her trial, Casey Anthony stood accused of murder in the first degree in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Everyone thought she was guilty. We were convinced she was guilty. The jury on the other hand, was not. And since our legal system dictates that a person is innocent until proven guilty in court, Casey Anthony was, and is, a free woman.

And now the story has made it to our TV screens. “Prosecuting Casey Anthony” premiered on Saturday, January 19 on the Lifetime Network. The movie is based on prosecutor Jeff Ashton’s book “Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony,” and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the prosecution team before and during Ms. Anthony’s murder trial.

From the beginning of the film we can see that Mr. Ashton (played by Rob Lowe) is a big deal. The lead attorney for the State of Florida, Linda Drane Burdick, (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) asked him to take the case as his last before retirement. Ms. Burdick may have been the lead chair officially, but it was pretty clear that it was Mr. Ashton who called the shots. As the movie made abundantly clear, this is a guy who “got the first conviction in the entire world based on DNA evidence.”  If someone might not know that already, Mr. Ashton probably makes it abundantly clear to them. (Just a hunch; it seems the guy has quite the healthy ego).

To Mr. Ashton, the Casey Anthony case was perfect: He would win and serve justice.  It was a case he couldn’t lose.

Until he did.

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Now Hiring: Smart and Ethical Hellhound

By Gillad Matiteyahu

“He was known as the Hellhound of Wall Street,” said my lawyer friend.

I was catching up with an old coworker over coffee and we started talking about politics. We were both disappointed that there were no ongoing investigations to uncover the callous wrongdoings that brought about the Great Recession. Only those who unmistakably and monumentally dropped the ball, like Bernie Madoff and Raj Rajaratnam, faced criminal prosecutions.

And that was when my friend introduced me to Ferdinand Pecora.

In his book, “The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora’s Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance”, published by Penguin Press in 2010, Michael Perino chronicles how one man, in only ten days of hearings before a congressional committee in Washington, brought Wall Street to its knees and forever impacted the U.S. financial markets. It is a story forgotten by many and that is why LASIS believes you should know about it.

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A Great Night with Good Night and Good Luck

By José I. Ortiz

Because we’re accustomed to a packed house at the Forum on Law, Culture & Society’s films and post-screening discussions, when I saw several empty seats on the chilly evening of October 22, I worried that I might have chosen the wrong night to attend. But once the evening’s film, “Good Night, and Good Luck” began, my worries were over.  I sat back and settled in for what turned out to be a truly outstanding event.

The post film panel was composed of the film’s star, David Strathairn, reporter Bob Simon of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and Sam Roberts a New York Times editor and correspondent. Leading the discussion, as always, was the charismatic law professor Thane Rosenbaum, director of the Forum Film Festival.

The film is George Clooney’s tribute to one of the most revered journalists in our nation’s history, Edward R. Murrow. Mr. Clooney directed, co-wrote, and acted in this movie, in addition to helping to fund the film, which was made for under $8 million, a marvel of thrift when films’ budgets regularly soar into the hundreds of millions.

This is precisely what is right about this film. As a movie lover I’m one of those “cinephiles” who watch European films to indulge the side of me that wants a deeper, more “artsy” form of entertainment. “Good Night, and Good Luck” has no flashy flyover scenes or CGI explosions. In fact, the movie was filmed in black and white and made to look like it was filmed using a Kinetoscope camera, the kind used for Mr. Murrow’s own shows on CBS.

A very well spoken yet down-to-earth journalist who took his job seriously, Edward R. Murrow didn’t pander to his audience. When was the last time you listened to a reporter who was able to quote Shakespeare on a live broadcast and not sound pretentious? That was Mr. Murrow.

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The Wartorn House We Live In

By Pamela Schwartz

As part of the LASIS coverage of Fordham Law School’s Forum on Law, Culture and Society’s film forum, I had the opportunity to see filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s documentary “The House I Live In” followed by a panel with Mr. Jarecki, The New Yorker film critic David Denby, and Fordham law professor Deborah Denno. Moderator Thane Rosenbaum noted that this was the first time the film festival was showing a work that had a concurrent commercial release in its seven-year history, which speaks to the growing success of the annual program.

The film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and counts Brad Pitt, John Legend, Russell Simmons, and Danny Glover among its executive producers, deals with the effects of our country’s 40-plus years of the War on Drugs. This take-no- prisoners movement, that makes prisoners of far too many, relies on law enforcement and mandatory minimum sentencing provisions to punish people caught with, or selling, drugs.

The documentary is told through the viewpoint of prison guards, prisoners, judges, law professors, various experts, and even Mr. Jarecki’s childhood caretaker, Nannie Jetter, whose son James grew up with Mr. Jarecki. James died of complications from HIV, which contracted through intravenous heroin use.

The conclusion these perspectives collectively lead to is that far-reaching government corruption, and deep-seeded classism, and xenophobia have fueled this “War” on drugs, which, as the film frames it, amounts to a failure with a trillion dollar price tag.

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John Adams and the Rule of Law

By Will Bartholomew

On Friday, October 19 Fordham Law School’s Forum on Law, Culture, and Society kicked off its annual film festival at the HBO Theater with a screening of Part One of the mini-series “John Adams.” The evening took on a hint of Hollywood gala as smartly-dressed patrons mingled over drinks and appetizers in the theater’s foyer before the show with the event’s guests-of-honor, Kirk Ellis, who wrote the screenplay for the series, and Judge Denny Chin, of the Federal Court of Appeals.

The festival, which is in its seventh year, seeks to spur discussion of the role of law and lawyers by showcasing films that deal with legal themes. Actors, writers, intellectuals, and members of the legal profession with a connection to the film are invited to help facilitate the discussion after each screening.

This year’s festival drew a capacity crowd for its opening night. As showtime neared and the audience filed into the theater, the room became so packed that even the festival’s lion-haired director, Thane Rosenbaum, had to search for a seat.

As the crowd settled in, Professor Rosenbaum rose to the podium at the front of the theater and, after thanking the people who had made the event possible, posed a question to the audience:

“Why did we choose Judge Chin for this post-show discussion? Why is he the perfect person to speak after Part One of “John Adams”?”

No one even ventured a guess. The answer would have to wait.

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