“Crime and Punishment" is a documentary series that goes inside the criminal justice system, produced by "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf. All of the cases, attorneys and defendants are real. Every episode features cases that the San Diego District Attorney’s Office prosecuted over the course of a year.
Cameras capture the raw emotional interactions between defendants, judges, attorneys, and victims’ families.
Doc Block caught up with some of the San Diego prosecutors and defenders involved in the cases featured in "Crime and Punishment" via email since the series first aired three years ago.
Carol Buck is the prosecutor featured in People v. Mayta. Read on for more about her involvement in "Crime & Punishment."
Doc Block: How did you feel about having cameras follow you around?
Carol Buck, prosecutor, People v. Mayta: At first I was apprehensive about it. In time, I learned to largely ignore the cameras, especially by the time the Mayta case was presented in court. I did have to make a conscience effort to ensure the taped communications with my colleagues outside of court did not include legal terminology or slang unknown to the general public. However, with the introduction of more crime dramas on television in the last decade, the viewing public knows more legal nomenclature and crime slang than ever before. On a personal level, I had to be constantly aware of the microphone since you have to manually turn it off during bathroom breaks, etc. or face embarrassing consequences.
Doc Block: Do cameras alter the way you argue a case in court?
Buck: No, since I treated my jury (not television viewers) as my target audience.
Doc Block: What aspects of the cameras did you like? Dislike?
Buck: I liked the fact that the cameras in court were positioned in back of the jury as to not distract them. I also liked the fact that the exact positioning of the camera itself was concealed by a large black box so orators in court were not focusing on who the camera was viewing. I only disliked the possibility of my potential malapropisms, mishaps, or clumsy occurrences making national television. Being embarrassed in front of colleagues, an esteemed jurist, jurors, and opposing counsel is bad enough.
Doc Block: What did the experience teach you?
Buck: Actually, I learned a lot about the film and television industry. During the course of many months, I was fortunate to meet many talented professionals who made the series, in my humble opinion, a great one. Working with the camera crew and producers gave me a greater appreciation for the hard work they do as well. Finally, by seeing myself on camera, I could better work on improving how I present a case to a jury since how you think you look is quite different from how you really look to others.
Doc Block: What was the public's response to the program? Did you get recognized on the street?
Buck: Everyone I spoke to was impressed with the program. At times, folks on the street or in establishments would say I looked familiar, but couldn't narrow it down further. I was more frequently recognized by the public in the courthouse.
Doc Block: Did the show accurately portray the prosecution?
Buck: I felt it did. In my opinion, there are few legal programs that portray the prosecution in an accurate light. The closest parallel I have seen in fiction drama is the "Law & Order" series. "Crime & Punishment" was a brave attempt to show prosecutors in real life legal dramas.
Doc Block: What was the most interesting thing that happened during the taping of the case you prosecuted?
Buck: One unexpected event was when one of my murder eyewitnesses identified the defense attorney's law clerk as the shooter.
Doc Block: What have you been doing since the program aired?
Buck: I continued to work in the Superior Court Division of the San Diego District Attorney's Office for another year and was later assigned to the Sex Crimes & Stalking and Economic Crimes Divisions. I continue to be involved in lecturing and charity work.
I'm also a member of the Writer's Program at UCLA, FIND (Film Independent) and Harvardwood (Entertainment Group for Harvard alums).