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A short lived TV show that aired in 2006. It centers around the National Justice Project, headed by ambitious attorney David Swain and former police detective Charles Conti. The NJP basically investigates people who are in prison who claim they're innocent of the crimes they were sent in for, and if they are, tries to get them out of prison.

Notable for starring Jason O'Mara, Kyle MacLachlan, Constance Zimmer and Marisol Nicols.


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Tropes:

  • Acquitted Too Late: In "The Public Burning" (since they may have gotten the killer despite failing to save the client) but also in Conti's background (he pressured an innocent man to confess). Later he turned out to be innocent, but had already killed himself. Conti admits that this is what drove him to join the National Justice Project.
  • The Atoner: Conti is still haunted by the fact that he inadvertently drove an innocent man to kill himself.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Conti takes down the murderer in episode 4 by claiming that the judge allowed them to test the DNA on the murder weapon, and that the DNA matched the killer. The murderer falls for it and confesses, allowing them to test it for real.
  • Deconstruction: The show is NOT afraid to demonstrate police incompetence or the corruption of higher officials. The first episode alone has a prominent member of the FBI being arrested for framing an innocent man, another has a prosecutor coaching witnesses to get a desired verdict, and several other episodes feature incompetent experts and or witnesses who either failed to remember properly or outright lied. "The Public Burning" also demonstrates that the typical ending where the innocent man is saved doesn't usually happen.
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  • Dirty Cop: One case involves a former cop convicted of killing a fellow officer who'd accused him of corruption. It's revealed not only was he innocent of that, but wasn't even corrupt to begin with. Other episodes however play this straight, with cops willing to frame people who they believe are guilty, or simply so their valuable informant (who had committed murder) is protected.
  • Downer Ending: "The Public Burning".
  • Eco-Terrorist: A couple in one case were convicted of murder and terrorism for a bombing which killed a waiter aimed at gas-guzzling cars. It turns out that another member of their group actually did this however, not them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While evil is a strong term, the judge in the fourth episode is kind of a jerk who only cares about finality (he only reverses his verdict after Swain gets himself placed in prison, causing a public outcry that forces the judge to reverse his decision and allow DNA testing). However, after the DA tries to continue pressing Conti even after he's clearly miserable for reciting a rather painful story, he tells the DA to back off.
  • False Confession: In his backstory, Conti got a suspect to confess that he'd committed rape and murder. The man hanged himself in prison, and it turns out he was innocent. Conti has been haunted by the case ever since, and this inspired him to join the National Justice Project working for innocent prisoners so they can be exonerated.
  • Frame-Up: Several cases, though in some the actual perpetrator is not involved-it's just authorities wanting to insure the conviction of suspects they believe are really guilty. So to them it's a case of framing the guilty party.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Swain is kind of an asshole, but it is made very clear that he does ultimately want to help innocent people as well.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Even though he's extremely callous about it, the Justice in "The Public Burning" is technically correct when he points out that a.) they can't put the new suspect at the scene of the crime, b.) they can't eliminate their client, and c.) the case has dragged on for 8 years and the sentence does need to be carried out. In the episode involving the teenager who confessed, the prosecutor points out that Conti used many of the same tactics and why it isn't okay now that he's a member of the National Justice Project. Conti counters by pointing out the one time those techniques didn't work (or they did, but the guy was innocent)....and resulted in an innocent man losing his life.
  • Karma Houdini: MAYBE Eli Stillwell in "The Public Burning". We don't see anything happen on screen, but the last we see Conti in the episode he's confronting Stillwell in his house and the team can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he deliberately lied to the police about the alibi, meaning that they could well have nailed him offscreen.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Subverted in "The Public Burning". At the end of the episode Swain meets with the Justice and lays out the new evidence namely that a.) a member of the church board had been beating his wife, b.) that the victim had known about it and tried to stop it, and c.) that not only had the suspect's wife retracted the alibi she gave him, they can prove that she was at the shelter on the night of the murder. The Justice responds that they can't put him at the scene, and that a suspicion isn't enough. What's more, the case has dragged on for 8 years, has seen two emergency petitions and many appeals.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: The premise of the show; especially apparent in "The Public Burning" when Frank Benner (a disabled man) is executed for killing a priest. The team finds compelling proof that the church president was the true killer, but the Chief Justice refuses to grant a stay.
  • Mistaken Identity: The pilot shows the prisoner was convicted as a result of being mistaken for her half-sister in the dark, who she did not even know about. Both closely resembled the other, with the half-sister killing their father.
  • My Greatest Failure: For Conti, this is Andrew Connolly. Connolly had been accused of rape and murder; Conti lied in order to get him to confess. Ultimately, DNA proved him innocent.....years after he had hung himself in prison.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Initially Swain doesn't want to take the case in the pilot. After one of the villains threatens him Swain decides to take it, partially because he hates the guy, and also because the nature of the threat (a high-ranking FBI member personally telling lawyers not to get involved or he'll arrange for Swain's clients to be investigated) implies that something is up.
  • Police are Useless: Played with. The show has no qualms about showing corruption or incompetence, but they also manage to be surprisingly nuanced. For instance, in episode 4 the client was falsely convicted because the police had lied to get him to confess. Ultimately, the team uses the exact same lie in order to trick the real killer into confessing, and at the end Conti grudgingly concedes that it isn't really different from what the cops did. The cops in episode 3 are also revealed to have missed evidence for an entirely understandable reason (the perp was a minor at the time and his fingerprints wouldn't have shown up in the database, and the police tape actually was pretty incriminating.)
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Sort of. Calvin Axelrod's threat to Swain to drop the case or he'll bring the FBI down on one of Swain's clients is what ultimately makes Swain consider that Dan Wainwright may in fact be innocent.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: In one episode it turns out that an informant from a far-right militia is the perpetrator. He killed someone during a bank robbery, and his FBI handlers actually helped to frame someone so they could keep him as a source.

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