Bringing Social Biography Videos to Alabama to Reduce Charges and Sentences

We recently had the opportunity to travel to a historic touchstone of the civil rights movement — Montgomery, Alabama — to work with and train six public defender offices in producing social biography videos to reduce charges and sentences. Some of the participating offices are brand new, born from a call from the community to create public defender offices in order to better protect the rights of the indigent, while others have had decades of history of advocating in the courts. We are excited to equip these offices — long-standing and new — with this tool as they advocate for justice for their clients. Here are some flicks, from our great connection in the South!

Jean sharing the concepts of how to tell a family story for the courts.

Jean sharing the concepts of how to tell a family story for the courts.

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PHOTOS: Why North St.Louis Is Raging

The police killing of Michael Brown has sparked outrage across the county, and protests in North St.Louis. An understanding of the context of the police dynamics, community, and the political realities of the area can give a fuller picture to the images America is seeing on social media and on their television screens. De-Bug was in North St. Louis just weeks before the shooting of Michael Brown to do a social biography video for a capital case, and captured photos that tell a story of police power, political corruption, and a community left to fend for themselves.

In a neighboring town to Ferguson, called Pine Lawn, police are perceived by many as an armed force of a corrupt mayor. In order to ensure his presence is felt, the mayor puts his name on all police vehicles. On the frontside of the van it also reads, "This is a zero tolerance community."

In a neighboring town to Ferguson, called Pine Lawn, police are perceived by many as an armed force of a corrupt mayor. In order to ensure his presence is felt, the mayor puts his name on all police vehicles. On the frontside of the van it also reads, “This is a zero tolerance community.”

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De-Bug’s Video and Poster for International Day of Action Against the Drug War

June 26th was the Global Day of Action to end the drug war. De-Bug’s ACJP collaborated with Global Exchange and the Drug Policy Alliance to put out a video and an accompanying poster to be displayed in San Francisco about the impact of drug policy laws that are breaking apart families. The effort was a part of an international campaign to bring attention to the fallout of the drug war. To read more go to:

Watch De-Bug’s Webinar on Producing Social Biography Videos to Impact Cases

Through the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, De-Bug’s ACJP recently gave a webinar to attorneys, organizations, and academics on how we started producing social biography videos to impact cases — and how they can too. There were 18 states represented on the webinar, and we are grateful for their participation and interest. The NLADA recorded the session and it is posted below. If you are interested in a training, or have a case you think would benefit from a video, just email us at:

The Parable of Cornealious “Mike” Anderson” and Challenging Mandatory Sentences

By Raj Jayadev

Prison No ShowThe story of Cornealious “Mike” Anderson, the convicted Missouri man who, because of a state Department of Corrections error, lived free for the 13 years of his prescribed prison sentence, sparked a national debate: Should a rehabilitated man be sent to prison?

As Anderson awaited a judge’s decision about his fate, some argued he must fulfill his original sentence, while others argued he should not be responsible for the state’s incompetence and that his 13 years of good citizenship should serve as reparation to society.

On Monday, May 5, 2014, the judge declared Anderson – who has four children, owns a carpentry contracting company, volunteers at his church and coaches Little League – a “good man” and a free man. Continue reading

Family Wins Historic Dismissal of Juvenile Case in Santa Clara County

courtney2This mom and daughter first came to De-Bug about 4 years ago, when she was only 16 years old, and facing charges in juvenile court.  Her mom kept insisting that her daughter did nothing wrong, and despite her family, community, and her attorneys fighting for her, the courts nevertheless put her on probation. However, they never gave up in pursuing justice. This week, she became the first person ever locally to win a dismissal of her juvenile case through a 782 code, making Santa Clara County legal history in the process.  “I put off so many job applications because I didn’t know how to move forward,” she says. But because of her unwavering family and community support, as well as great advocacy from her public defender, this family has triumphed.  “I couldn’t give up, because I had people — especially my mom — that wouldn’t give up.” — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo


“Time Saved” Special Screening at San Francisco Justice Summit

We were excited to share an advanced screening of the first episode of our new documentary series called Time Saved at this year’s San Francisco Justice Summit. The Summit is a gathering of criminal defense attorneys, justice advocates, and more, who convene to discuss the most pressing challenges to the public’s rights and liberties in the context of the courts. The event is hosted by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and this year they featured two of our videos. One was a social biography video we produced for a San Francisco Public Defender client. The video, which was shown during sentencing, helped secure a mitigated sentence, and helped beat a strike prior. We are aired the first pilot episode of Time Saved. The series focuses on how family, community, and attorney collaborations have impacted the outcome of cases. The pilot episode featured the only woman in Santa Clara County who was eligible for resentencing through Proposition 36. The episode will be released to the larger public this summer. Stay posted, and if you have a story or case that you think should be featured, let us know!



Bronx Defenders and the Feng Shui of Public Defense

Picture from the NY Times.

Picture from the NY Times.

It’s not often lawyers at a public defender’s office are excited to show you around their building. And that’s usually for good reason – you’ve seen one defender office, you’ve seen them all. A lobby with a bullet proof glass window clients approach to speak to a receptionist, and some cubicles and offices in the back with lawyers and staff.

But at the Bronx Defender’s Office, they want to show you around because they have a new imagination of space design for public defense. Walking through their buildings is like watching a lawyer’s version of MTV cribs. Not that it is blinged out, but that the design – the furniture, the room set-ups, the lack of walls where one is used to seeing them, even the paintings hung of client’s art – sends a message to both clients and attorneys. Continue reading