Meet the Press

We’ve commented frequently in this space that the media often don’t get the full story correct when discussing legal issues and the hows and whys of lawyers and judges. To be fair, we should also note that lawyers, of course, aren’t necessarily all that good at dealing with the media, either. Most attorneys have sparse contact with the media, and virtually none of us have ever been trained to deal with the press in high-profile cases. 

Case in point:  the newly-appointed lawyers for Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who is charged with kidnapping, beating and raping three young women over a 10-year period. After meeting his client for the first time, one of Castro’s lawyers told reporters, "The initial portrayal by the media has been one of a 'monster' and that's not the impression that I got when I talked to him for three hours.” He added that the press should not “demonize” the defendant before they know the “whole story.” 

Obviously, every defendant is entitled to a lawyer, to put on a defense, and to force the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  But, seriously, a couple of points here:  First, given that Castro reportedly confessed to police that he kidnapped the women and held them hostage for 10 years – including fathering a child with one of the victims – complaining about people thinking your client is a monster is probably not the best way to open a public dialogue on your client’s behalf, especially when your argument is premised on a 3-hour “impression.”

Second, people who talk about the “whole story” or “waiting for the facts to come out” generally do so because they don’t currently have any other helpful facts. As in: He wasn’t there, it wasn’t his house, it’s a case of mistaken identity, he was also held hostage, etc. Facts like those tend to be uttered immediately and without hesitation. If there aren’t any favorable facts, it’s probably best to say something to the effect that you’ve just been retained and you’ll have more to say later.  

While lawyers have a duty to advocate for their client, the media is not a courtroom, and advocacy must weigh those considerations. Fairly or not, these statements tend to feed the narrative that lawyers will say anything and lie without conscience on behalf of their clients. That’s unfortunate because reputable lawyers generally go out of their way to be honest, no matter how challenging the circumstances.   

Posted: 5/17/2013 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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About This Blog

Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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