Press Release

The Vanishing Trial: FAMM, NACDL launch documentary about the trial penalty

For Media Inquiries:
Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700

The Vanishing Trial: FAMM, NACDL launch documentary about the trial penalty
Vanita Gupta, Brittany Barnett, Clark Neily, and Norman Reimer to participate in panel discussion about the film

WASHINGTON – FAMM and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) are hosting a virtual screening and panel discussion of their new documentary “The Vanishing Trial” which takes a deep dive into the trial penalty in America. The film will be available for a limited time to the general public — from Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m. through Monday, June 15 at 5 p.m. Register to view the film here.

“One of the most important rights we have as Americans – the right to a trial – is disappearing before our eyes,” said Kevin Ring, president of FAMM. “We want to believe that people are punished based on the severity of their crime and the harm they caused. That’s no longer true. Today the harshest sentences are imposed on those who simply exercise their right to go to trial.”

The screening will be followed by a virtual panel discussion on Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m. featuring Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Brittany K. Barnett, Buried Alive Project; Clark Neily, Cato Institute; and Norman Reimer, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“The trial penalty is much more than an unjust, unwarranted sentence enhancement for those who dare to exercise their constitution right to a trial,” said Norman Reimer, NACDL Executive Director. “It is a bludgeon wielded by unrestrained prosecutors to extract guilty pleas and all manner of waivers to foreclose public disclosure of law enforcement misconduct. In an era in which we desperately need transparency, the trial penalty operates as a shroud of secrecy that perpetuates racial and ethnic disparity.”

“The Vanishing Trial” focuses on four individuals who were forced to make that excruciating choice between pleading guilty or going to trial. Each was threatened with a “trial penalty,” the term used to describe the substantially longer prison sentence a person receives if they exercise their constitutional right to trial instead of pleading guilty. The documentary reveals how the trial penalty has led to the shocking disappearance of one of the most fundamental individual rights and the explosion in America’s prison population.

Throughout the film, we hear the perspectives of national experts, including former federal judges and prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, constitutional law experts, and criminal justice reform advocates.

“The Vanishing Trial” was produced by FAMM producer/director Wynette Yao and cinematographer/editor Travis Edwards. Yao is an Emmy-nominated producer/director who has worked for National Geographic, Discovery and other major networks. Edwards is an award-winning cinematographer/editor who has worked on a wide range of documentaries and features.

In order to watch the film, you must register here. Upon registration you’ll receive an email confirmation with a link and password to view the film. The link will be active starting Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m. until Monday, June 15 at 5 p.m. The panel will be streamed via Facebook Live on both FAMM and NACDL’s Facebook pages.


FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL’s many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.