In the introductory post on handling the media, we learned how the effective criminal defense attorney must always consider how media coverage can affect their client’s interests during the litigation process, even here in Bryan-College Station, Texas. In high profile criminal cases, the defense lawyer must investigate facts and understand them well before deciding whether their case has a newsworthy angle. In other words, what things about the case constitute “news” and how does the lawyer prepare to represent their client zealously in the media? Again, the defense lawyer must thoroughly investigate facts.
Many lawyers are reluctant to talk to the press for fear of violating the rules of ethics [Know the Facts] 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’ll continue our exploration of areas in which a Bryan-College Station criminal defense lawyer can prepare to make the best use of the media to zealously represent their client. Visit my Bryan-College Station Criminal Defense Blog for other posts about handling the media and trial advocacy.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.