tv [untitled] December 21, 2010 2:00am-2:30am PST
from gavel-to-gavel, even if it is televised? when the camera is not present, you must rely on the boarding -- the reporting. i have had many instances where i was reporting on a trial and i will listen to my colleague on my right and left and wondered if they had been in the same courtroom that i was in. their sense of what happened in that room was very different from my own. i often feel that they're pro- prosecution bias is present. there is an assumption that they must have done something wrong or they would not have been charged in first place. maybe that is human nature, but it certainly makes its way into reporting. i also think in our last 15, 20 years of political context, because of the wave of crime, violence, and we can even talk
about the entertainment medium, there has been a preference for "law and order" and "csi" type of programming that preferred the victim. back in the 1970's we had more of a liberal bias. i think the pendulum is shifting in the other direction. there was a show called "raising the bar" which focused very much on criminal defense attorneys. there was "the practice" my favorite. it was about criminal defense attorneys. there was a cultural response on the part of news media and
entertainment media to what the audience wanted to see. >> good segue. jonathan, from the commerce report of the operation, would you agree that the media contributes to -negative perception of the public defender? >> law and order has been running for 20 years in various forms. the media reflects what the public wants. that is my first point. my second point is, i was a federal prosecutor. like any other federal prosecutor, i came to admire, respect, the impressed with the quality of work that public defenders did. the best lawyers in washington,
d.c., los angeles. for the most part, those in the public defender's office for the best. the third is, you have a great product but you do not sell it. vkrmall of the media reflectiof defense lawyers come from those loudmouth, buckskin where ring, and absurd -- you know the type. barnum and bailey private defense lawyers who claim there is some sort of mission -- they are some sort of magician. that it would be beneath them to publicize what they do and how they do it. the only reason i am here -- i even pounded the table. i would like the public defender's office to do a better job publicizing their work. i agree with jamie, the pendulum
is swinging back. i was just in new york where the new shows are presented to advertisers. there are several that our defense-based shows. -- are the fenced-based shows. i think -- are defense-based shows. i think you are right. >> that is in large part the innocence movement, proving to injuries that they have gotten it wrong time and time again. this innocence project is based in new york. 300 individuals exonerated on dna evidence. people are starting to wake up
to the important role of criminal defense attorneys, but jonathan is right. that court tv, we cover cases where public defenders and criminal defense attorneys are in court. we do not choose the cases based on either or. we see fine lawyer ring from both. often, the best lawyers a vcr from the public defender's office. they do not know the difference. >,7ythey do not know if it is cg albie, one of the best lawyers we have ever put on tv. they do not know how a public defender differs from a criminal attorney. i am shocked that the public has a lack of understanding among the public defender does, how we should be resources. this is a critical reason why i
am here today. >> what i heard jonathan to just is that public defenders are responsible for the negative misconceptions' because we are not doing our part to help change it. if that is true, i want jerry to tell us whether or not he agrees with that assessment. >> do you agree with that? >> jonathan said something that i absolutely agree with. that is the media reflects what the public wants. in my view, the media, in
general, feed a voracious appetite for vengeance by an informed public. often influenced by fear, prejudice, and ignorance. i think one of the reasons criminal defense lawyers argued so poorly is people do not understand the source of crime. they want simple, quick responses to a complicated long- term solutions. you cannot fight crime by doing what the governor is doing, cutting social services and building new prisons. [applause] you do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand. all of us who have been involved in the criminal-justice system know where people who commit crimes come from. they are poor people, people of color, victims of abuse, the mentally ill, people with
substance abuse problems. there are the people that fall through the cracks of society. but that is the public read what the public wants and the public is understandably afraid because this is a real problem. then there are these people who build prisons and service prisons who give money to politicians who go out and run campaigns appealing to this fear and ignorance and prejudice, and if we cannot lock them up, killed them. they do not understand how shortsighted it is because they do nothing to understand the fundamental problems about crime. i think part of education people about criminal defense lawyers, public defense lawyers, is educating people about the source of crime. they need to understand if the
constitution does not work for everybody, it does not work. >> so how do we educate them? >> you bust rush limbaugh. he learned there is a fourth amendment to the constitution. seriously, how do we do it? i am not sure. one of the things that i struggled with, in particular, in robert blake's case, when i got into the case, i was determined not to get caught up in the media and to be the same person at the end of the case as i was at the beginning. i think of lawyers need to be lawyers, not try to be entertainers. you would know better. >> just so you know, i covered him while he was trying that case and desperately tried to
get him to come to me during the case. i felt it was so important for the public to understand the constitutional issues that were coming up, but he rightly wanted to remain focused on the client and case at that time. so how do we educate the public while remaining true to the cause of the work? >> i was going to have a hard time controlling these guys. >> you have a panel of lawyers and you are telling them to shut up, and you are not even wearing a black robe. [laughter] by the way, putting a black robe on a suit does not give you a good judge. by the way, everything your office has been doing, has been extremely helpful. but i do not know -- i was
curious. there was an article in the "examiner" about the revelations about all these police officers with criminal history, misconduct. one of the quotation from the prosecutor was, after they talk about how all this stuff was, "i do not want felons released because we have not done our job right." what they do not say in the entire article, which is a front-page piece, is not only is it a violation of the rules, but when you have people testify who may be shouldb innocent people can be convicted, and it happens every day. and there is not one word of that in the article. >> carol, do you agree or disagree that public defenders contribute to this negative image?
should be accept some responsibility here? >> i think a causality of the media disconnect -- it is obviously there. the media is not show him what i see and do in my everyday life. but rathe saying i think it is the media's fault, the media thinks it is our fault for notg them, i think we all need to do a better job. her book shows that from a journalistic standpoint. she went into the courtroom and watched. she told the story. by the same token, we can do that as public defenders. i have thought, if public defenders was a major corporation and had this image problem, there would be a massive pr campaign. there would be commercials everywhere. instead we say, gosh, it sucks. but actually, we are doing good
work and we have motives and goals, and we are crusaders, someone not present ourselves that way? i heard today that there was a commercial being done. he was thinking along the same lines as me, so how he must be brilliant. [laughter] >> spoken like a true public defender. >> it was john's idea. >> from broadcast journalism, commercial journalism, i want to sell their stories. they give the audience what they want to see. from the criminal defense perspective, is your priority in trial different from jamie's priority when she is following the story? >> i am no media expert, i am a
criminal defense lawyer. i am proud of that. you have to focus on the issues that are relevant in your case. media may be one of those issues, but you cannot get caught up in it. you have to pay attention, you have to fight like crazy to get judges to to let you ask questions so that you can attempt to get a fair-minded jury. the media is like any other piece of evidence, it is a piece of the puzzle. but you cannot get focused on the media. if you are a lawyer preparing for a case, focus on being a lawyer. >> do you agree with that? >> absolutely. i also think broadcast journalism is seeking that emotional connection to their audience.
these and emotional things sometimes favor the defender. many times, it will favor the victim, the accuser. where we have something as sexy as, they did not prove that, they forgot the chain of custody -- that does not sell as well. obviously, we have different interests. they want to tell stories, we want to win our cases. >> jonathan? >> it seems to me specifically the public defender's office is in a different position in need to take more responsibility for getting the message out for the good work it does. the reason i say that is it will
always be a complicated question on an individual case how much the lawyer should or should not talk to the media. and there are rules that constrains what lawyers can and cannot say3d media. that is an interesting topic, something worth considering. i am talking about something different. at the u.s. attorney's office, we had a press office. they were in charge of issuing press releases. those press releases extolled the wonderful work we did as prosecutors and it was always headed by the name of the current u.s. attorney who was looking to become a judge. the public defender's office needs to understand, it seems to me, that they are competing in a more complicated world when it comes to the media that existed 10 years ago. if they were a corporation, public defender's offices would have to except they have an image problem. they have a great product that
the public does not understand. it seems to me one question we could ask is how can we help the public defender's office get that message out? and it matters. this is not for ego gratification. it matters because you are publicly funded. when it comes down to your budgets, the public defender's office has got to rely on the same funding sources as the presence, prosecutors offices, the courts. as stakeholders at the public trough, it seems to me, through some sort of martyr complex -- which i respect -- that somehow it is unseemly to bang the drum for what you do. it is unseemly tor us, these injustices would be tenfold. i think what is irresponsible is to not tell people what you are all about. >> so does this mean, if that ir
of television dramas, what do you do with the material? does the audience really want to hear about public defenders were crusaders? -- or crusaders? >> attica's finch was listed as one of the 100 most popular heroes in american sentiment. as a prosecutor, that used to always take me off. he loses the case and that gets killed. then when his daughter is involved in the case, he'd obstructs justice by pretending to read the is not the killer. everybody loves that. even though he loses, the trucks and justice. when i was on "practice" we had
a character that we spun off on another show who would destroy evidence. people loved him. it seems to me there has to be a free imagining from the public defender's office -- reimagining from the public defender's office about one we do. we all know where crime comes from. that group of people is also where crime victims come from. it is a lot easier to get people behind routing for the victim of crime, then the potential perpetrator -- than the potential perpetrator. where i think we are missing an opportunity is -- this will be controversial. nobody told us you wearing a
dark suit, white shirt, tie. you look like a young republican, even if you are not. and i do not know where they told the public defender's office, if you are a man, you should have a ponytail and endearing. [laughter] -- earring. am i talking about style, how you present yourself? yes, it matters. >> there is a story line on "raising the bar" where one of the characters is made to cut his ponytail by the need woman judge to whom he appears in front of all the time. ultimately, he does get the hair cut and looks like a young republican, and begins winning more cases.
>> i would normally agree with everything that jonathan says, but my cousin vinny won with a purple suit. [laughter] >> john and i have known each other for 15, 20 minutes. [laughter] i am not a media person. these folks know better. one thing i can tell you the public defender should do, lawyers in private practice, public defenders, should not view each other as the enemy. the criminal defense bar, public or private, needs to be unified. when you are unified, it increases your numbers and
increases your financial base with which to try to do the kinds of media efforts, contribute to the media like you are talking about. >> i wanted to pick up on something. i agree entirely with jerry. i agree with your focus in the blank case -- blake case. although we try to get the interview and tried to distract you in the cause, you are right to focus on the case. in the end, we had a conversation after verdict. in the end, it is important to be concerned about the image, not during the case, but in general, of public defender offices and criminal defense attorneys. i think it is also important to make a distinction. while i agree an effort should
be made to show the difference between criminal attorneys and public defenders for this reason. when we would ask people about this distinction -- first of all, people can recite law-and- order language in the criminal justice system -- and they can recite that but not the sixth amendment. they also cannot tell you the difference between public defenders and criminal defense attorneys. when we would tell them about public defenders, they but say, oh, i get that. and whatever they describe their political affiliation to be, they liked the idea. they supported it. they wanted their tax dollars to support it as well. they want public defenders to exist but they need to know about public defenders and about
that resource question. they need us to tell them. that is why we are here today. that has got to be a part of the mission. so i support everything johnson said, but there is another the to keep in mind. this is the jury pool. the jury pool is constantly affected and infected by nancy grace, law-and-order. it is constantly being polluted -- i truly believe this -- by the media. it sounds silly but it is not. i really believe in the power of media to influence people. that is why i got in it. so we have to use it to our advantage. you have got to be in it to win it. if we are not controlling our image, someone else is.
so you have got to start thinking about the way that the image of the public defender is going to be portrayed, either in dramatic television -- over which you will have a lot less control. or certainly, in news media. years ago, i got a phone call from a public defender in san francisco. he had a case receiving a lot of media attention, and he wanted me to come to cover the case for 20/20. some of his colleagues thought he was not to. what are you bringing a barbara walters in to cover a case at the san francisco public defender's office? they turned their noses up at him and thought it was silly. jonathan mentioned, it is a martyr complex, it is egotistical. some people said, you are being
egotistical. it was month -- none of those things. he wanted attention in the case because he knew that it would help him win the case. it would affect the prosecutor's decision. it would affect the judge if it ever got to the sentencing phase. a ultimately, he won the case. your concern the influence the way public defenders are portrayed in news media, and perhaps those who write for the entertainment media. >> before i move into how we can change the image, and want to ask jonathan a question. today, how would you cast for the role of a criminal defense attorney for television? >> i have had the pleasure of doing that twice. i created two series that nobody really watch.
i have had the experience on two separate occasions, sitting with casting directors, trying to cast the role of defense lawyer. it is interesting, a defense lawyer can look american. kathy bates is playing one. jimmy smits is planning one. they focus group test television shows, like they do with new car models. the companies that do that work are the same month that two mock jury trials. so your audience is also a jury pool. a defense lawyer are all the ones that you would imagine if you were describing gregory
peck. someone with high integrity, someone who will do anything it takes to win. they do not have an expectation of what they need to look like. but those qualities seem to be universal. those have not changed. those are the same qualities they were looking for when perry mason was popular. old, traditional values. it seems to me if afl-cio can buy ad time on dodger games, i do not understand why public defenders cannot do the same thing. the last point i want to make, i served on the california judicial bench council on media. you may or may not know that newspapers are cutting back their coverage of court to all the time.
the tradition of the journalistic way of getting your story out does not exist anymore. that is bad but it is also an opportunity. the idea of blogging, the opportunity to step into this void in get your message out directly is incredibly important to your >> carol, what does blogging do for our public image? >> well, it may also get me fired -- [laughter] it is an easy way to publish. there are barriers to the press, but here is a little button that allows you to publish. if you can attract enough readers, you can get our message out. whether it is telling stories of public defenders in their everyday life, which i have done, but also use it to try to use it as an en