“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.
John Philpott, a prosecutor featured in People v. Robershaw, said the series accurately portrays real-life courtroom drama:
Doc Block: How did you feel about having cameras follow you around?
John Philpott, prosecutor, People v. Robershaw: It was odd at first, but I got used to it quickly. The camera crew was very professional and did a great job of staying out of the way. All the filming in the courtroom was done with cameras hidden out of the way, and operated by remote control. So nobody in the courtroom could even tell it was being filmed.
Doc Block: What did the experience teach you?
Philpott: That real life and real cases are as interesting, if not more so, than anything TV can fictionalize.
Doc Block: What was the public's response to the program?
Philpott: The public's reaction was quite good. The show drew a large audience and brought attention to the problem of teenage drinking and driving. It brought home the reality that real people die, families' lives are destroyed, and teenagers can go to prison. I received several heart-felt letters from people who lost loved ones to drunk driving. A friend of mine is a high school teacher and he shows the episode to each of his classes every year. I think that's great.
Doc Block: Did you get recognized on the street?
Philpott: Yes, quite a bit. And here are the answers to some common questions that people asked: No, we did not get paid. That would have been unethical and improper. Moreover, it was not our motivation. Rather, the goal was to let the public see what actually goes on in a criminal trial. We signed releases and had no editorial control or input. We knew up front that the show would air, whether we won or lost. There were no "re-takes" of anything filmed.
Doc Block: Did the show accurately portray the prosecution?
Philpott: Yes. There was more to the "story," but what was portrayed was accurate. The show needed to be twice as long to really capture everything.
Doc Block: What was the most interesting thing that happened during the taping of the case you prosecuted?
Philpott: When my "star" witness initially testified to something totally contrary to what she told the police and me several times before, including on tape. She was scared and did not want to see the defendant get in trouble. She eventually told the truth. Her hesitancy ultimately made her all the more credible.
Doc Block: What have you been doing since the program aired?
Philpott: I am still a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego and I am still doing felony trials.