Picks and Pans Review: Terrorist on Trial: the United States Vs. Salim Ajami

updated 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Sun., Jan. 10, 8 p.m. ET)


Sometime in a fictional future, a Palestinian terrorist—Robert (The Goonies) Davi—is grabbed in Beirut, flown to the U.S., arrested and put on trial for ordering the deaths of American tourists. Ron Leibman, as a brilliant and bombastic law professor, is hired to defend the terrorist. And Sam (September) Waterston, as a straight-arrow assistant attorney general, is assigned to prosecute him. The situation sets up the show's intriguing what if: What if a foreign terrorist were tried in the U.S.? Would he get a fair trial? Would such an exercise bring out the best or the worst in us? It's a pity that the script doesn't quite know what to do with its neat idea; the longer the movie lasts, the more aimless, pointless and unrealistic it gets. In the end only one message—albeit a good one—gets through: "This system only works," says lawyer Leibman, "if the worst of us, even the monsters, have their rights protected." So Terrorist on Trial is a well-meaning primer on constitutional law. But it's not much of a drama. For that we can look to real life. Last September, six months after this show was wrapped and in the can, a Shi'ite terrorist, Fawaz Younis, was arrested in the Mediterranean, brought to the U.S. and charged with a 1985 hijacking. He should pray he's not tried on TV.

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