Credit: Allison McCartney/Reveal

Several months ago, a recent journalism school graduate pitched us a story about a troubling aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system based on his master’s thesis. All odds were against us taking it on – Antoine Goldet was newly minted and, what’s more, he’s French. Could he report this story deeply? Could he write well in English? So many questions.

Rodney Roberts copped a bad plea deal. Follow his story step by step on Instagram.

But the topic is one we care about: plea deals, our unjust solution to clearing court dockets choked by years of getting tough on crime. And Goldet had brought us an interesting twist on the steady drumbeat of coverage, drawing us step by step by step into the life of a man desperately trying to take back his guilty plea to a crime he did not commit.

So we took a risk on Goldet and, later, he took a risk on us, too, when we decided the best way to roll out his story was in 21 installments on our Instagram channel illustrated by our very own Allison McCartney – one for every year beginning when Rodney Roberts was convicted in 1996. That year, 92 percent of convictions at the criminal court of Essex County, New Jersey, rested on plea bargains, and Roberts’ was among them. But his was certainly no bargain.

Join us this week on Instagram as we tell you Roberts’ story. Come back next Monday to read the full investigation here at

Amy Pyle is editor in chief of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @amy_pyle.

Amy Pyle is editor in chief at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, guiding a team of editors, reporters and producers who produce unique in-depth national stories for the web, radio and video. Her primary goals are exposing wrongdoing and holding those responsible accountable, and increasing diversity in the ranks of investigative reporters. In the past year, CIR has established a fellowship program for aspiring investigative journalists of color and another for women filmmakers. Amy has worked at CIR since 2012, previously serving as a senior editor and managing editor. Rehab Racket, a collaboration with CNN that she managed on fraud in government-funded drug and alcohol rehabilitation, won the top broadcast award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. The Reveal radio version of an investigation she oversaw on an epidemic of opiate prescriptions at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs won a George Foster Peabody Award. Previously, as assistant managing editor for investigations at The Sacramento Bee, she managed “Chief's Disease,” a story about pension spiking at the California Highway Patrol, which won George Polk Award. Amy worked as a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times for more than a decade where, as assistant city editor, she directed coverage from the parking lot of the Times’ quake-damaged San Fernando Valley office in the early morning hours after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. That work earned the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting. Amy has a bachelor’s degree in French from Mills College and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.