Columbia j-school honors PBS filmmaker Ofra Bikel

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Tonight, Columbia University gives a black-tie salute to Frontline documentarian Ofra Bikel [profile]. She’ll receive the $25,000 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. Her investigations have freed 13 people who otherwise would have been jailed because of breakdowns in the justice system, including aggressive plea bargaining, rigid mandatory sentences and reliance on faulty testimony. Among those freed are Terence Garner, whose crime was to have a name similar to a suspect’s. Betsy Kelly, one of seven North Carolinians sentenced for child abuse and freed after Bikel’s Innocence Lost reporting, will attend the dinner. “Ofra Bikel’s work has shone a stark light on the realities of the American justice system,” said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia j-school.