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Investigative Reports: New York Law (A&E, 9-10 p.m.): The media tend to cover real-life trials as flashy dramas with high-priced defense attorneys pitted against top-rated prosecutors. In fact, as this show suggests, these are the exceptions, diverting viewers from the day-to-day life of big-city prosecutions. The typical case is a sad, grubby process where hard-pressed professionals on both sides struggle to keep up with the overload. Never mind the ``L.A. Law'' image of courts, this fascinating investigation suggests. Here is ``New York Law,'' a reality check featuring a city with twice the murders per year than in all of Britain.

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What kind of defense does a low-profile suspect get in New York? Money has a lot to do with it, we learn. Before a bail hearing, a defendant on legal aid may have five minutes with his appointed defense attorney - whom he is seeing for the first time - before appearing in court.

The program watches daily courtroom crises, including one hurried, whispered lawyer-client consultation as the two decide if the latter should accept a plea bargain the prosecution has offered. Some defendants plead guilty, the program says, instead of being denied or not making bail and then waiting six months for a trial to begin.

In one scene, a black suspect on public assistance is seen receiving a high bail. His fast-talking lawyer gets a lecture by an impatient judge, who is later interviewed. The judge proves both visionary and firmly plugged into the real world, offering viewers a brilliant analysis of the punishment-vs.-rehabilitation issue, one that refutes the conventional wisdom behind the arguments on both sides.

You may not enjoy courtroom dramas quite as much after seeing this show, but you'll view some of the people involved with a more informed eye. * MONDAY

Evening News From Moscow (C-Span, 6-6:30 p.m.): A report in Russian with simultaneous English translation.

Please check local listings for these programs.

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