In my introductory post on handling the media, we learned how the effective criminal defense lawyer must always consider how media coverage can affect their client's interests during the litigation process. In high profile criminal cases the defense lawyer should learn to think like a reporter and learn to recognize a newsworthy angle on their case. In other words, what things about the case constitutes "news" and how does the lawyer prepare to represent their client zealously in the media? First though, the defense lawyer must know the facts.
Many lawyers are reluctant to talk to the press for fear of violating the rules of ethics which govern their professional conduct. The rules of ethics state the lawyer can make comments upon and generally discuss the following matters related to their case: (1) the general nature of a claim or defense; (2) any information contained in a public record: (3) an investigation is underway - including any defense involved; and (4) a request for assistance in obtaining evidence. Additionally, the lawyer may also comment upon a matter "reasonably calculated to counter the unfair prejudicial effect of another public statement" made in the press. That is, if the prosecutor is engaged in a media campaign against their client the defense lawyer is permitted to respond the attack.
To present a newsworthy angle on their case the lawyer must know the facts of the case intimately before talking with the press. If the lawyer makes a mistake it will be forever recorded in print and in website archives. Since other reporters will look to past stories for background information they are likely to repeat the lawyer's error in their own stories. In this case, credibility may be lost and the client's case can suffer harm.
In future posts we will continue our exploration of areas in which the criminal defense lawyer can prepare to make the best use of the media to zealously represent their client.