8-part Docu-Series Premiering Tuesday April 20 at 8 p.m.
Official Trailer | Philly D.A.
He sued police over 75 times. Now he’s the D.A. Can his team make change from the inside?
Docuseries set in the office of the Philadelphia District Attorney over course of three years follows unapologetic reformer Larry Krasner and his team as they transform the criminal justice system from the inside
“Philly D.A.” is a groundbreaking docu-series from PBS and ITVS, premiering on April 20, 2021. The eight-part series takes viewers into the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as he and his team work to transform the criminal justice system from the inside.
“Philly D.A.” is the most expansive docu-series INDEPENDENT LENS has premiered to date, with new episodes airing over the course of seven weeks. In the vein of Knock Down the House and Flint Town, “Philly D.A.” brings viewers behind the scenes, giving them a vivid, firsthand look at a District Attorney’s office attempting to transform the future of mass incarceration, the culture of prosecution and the fundamental meaning of justice.
In 2017, Krasner, a civil rights attorney who sued the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times throughout his career, mounted a long-shot campaign supported by activists and organizers, and ultimately won the District Attorney’s seat in a city that has the highest incarceration rate of any large city in the United States. From Krasner’s win in 2017 up to the present moment, “Philly D.A.” brings viewers inside the emotional, high-stakes work that Krasner and an ensemble of idealistic outsiders from different walks of life take on as they strive to overhaul an entrenched criminal justice system while grappling with detractors, political opposition and a skeptical public.
Verité documentary filmmakers Ted Passon and Yoni Brook secured wide-ranging access to the District Attorney’s office, embedding themselves on a near daily basis for the last three years. This unfiltered access captures Krasner’s dramatic first year in office and documents the day-to-day struggles of trying to change the entrenched criminal justice system. Krasner and his team drew national headlines as they pushed for reforms such as prosecuting police misconduct and brutality, rethinking sentencing, reforming probation and parole, minimizing the use of cash bail, and ending pursuit of the death penalty.
“The District Attorney’s office is an opaque institution, but integral to local policymaking, and has a profound effect on how citizens live in any community," said Passon and Brook. “Krasner is just one of a growing number of progressive prosecutors taking office around the country, and so we hope this behind-the-scenes portrait of a city in the midst of change will help inform the public about this movement. “Philly D.A.” highlights the nuts and bolts of a public institution and prompts questions around the culture that it’s built on, so there’s no more fitting platform to present it on than INDEPENDENT LENS and PBS, where it will be accessible to everyone around the country, and will hopefully provoke the rigorous conversations we should be having around our criminal justice system.”
While crime, punishment and policing have been subjects intensely explored through film and television, the District Attorney’s office has been an entity largely inaccessible to the public eye until now. Though much of “Philly D.A.” is shot inside the D.A.’s office, the series also takes to the streets of various neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and into the lives of people who are directly impacted by the decisions made downtown. Each episode moves back and forth between the D.A.’s office and personal stories from those affected, including those currently incarcerated, victims of crime, political opponents, activists and concerned residents. Through real-time interviews with Krasner, his team and those who disagree with his approach, including prosecutors in his own office, sitting judges, victims of crime and law enforcement officials, “Philly D.A.” captures a never-before-seen, in-depth look inside the justice system as old and new guards clash.
“These enormously talented filmmakers have accomplished something incredibly rare,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of INDEPENDENT LENS. “They have used their extraordinary access to the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia to tell a complex and nuanced story of national scope and importance that feels as contemporary as today’s headlines, with all the high stakes of a procedural drama, and they’ve constructed it across multiple episodes. It is a privilege to present such a powerful docu-series as “Philly D.A.” on INDEPENDENT LENS.”
“Philly D.A.” is the first multi-part series to premiere as part of a five-year pipeline of criminal justice content presented by INDEPENDENT LENS under its Stories for Justice public media partnership. Through a groundswell of more than 20 documentary films and docu-series about the racial inequities of the criminal justice system, the public media partnership aims to increase understanding and inspire local communities to support reform.
Episode 1: Airing Tuesday, April 20 at 8 p.m.
Civil rights champion Larry Krasner defies precedent with a landslide win to become Philadelphia’s District Attorney. Pledging sweeping reform, the new top prosecutor in America’s most incarcerated city fires 31 resistant attorneys, alienating many he needs on his side to enact change. As the staff reels, his team uncovers a secret the police ranks are desperate to keep hidden from the public.
Episode 2: Airing Tuesday, April 20 at 9 p.m.
Krasner and his team battle for access to the complete police misconduct files as an angry public demands the District Attorney release the names of officers deemed unfit to testify in court. Meanwhile, tensions boil between new Assistant District Attorneys and seasoned veterans in the juvenile unit over new juvenile sentencing alternatives. How hard can the new guard lean on the old to change?
Episode 3: Airing Tuesday, April 27 at 8 p.m.
As a candidate, Larry Krasner pledged his office would never seek the death penalty. That promise is put to the test when a police sergeant is murdered while shopping for his son’s birthday. Krasner faces pressure from the police union, slain officer’s family, and his own attorneys to pursue the death penalty. Lives hang in the balance of the D.A.’s biggest decision yet—along with his credibility.
Other episode descriptions to be posted as they are announced.