CBA Record April-May 2019


A DEFENSE PERSPECTIVE How to Handle High-Profile Criminal Cases and

the Press By Julie Koehler

S “Sweetheart. Sit up straight.” This was the text I received frommy mother five minutes into the first televised trial conducted in Cook County. As I sat at the defense table, I knew I was in for a long couple of weeks… so of course, I sat up straight. In December 2014 the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order allowing cameras in the courtroom. Many counties started film- ing trials, but Cook County held off. Not until August 2018, was the trial of People v. Mickiael Ward, more commonly known as “The Hadiya Pendleton Trial” televised from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California. It’s never good for the defense when a case is nationally known by the name of the victim, so the trial was

going to be an uphill battle. However, I grew up with a politician for a mother and spent my formative years standing next to her at press conferences and speeches. Stepping in front of a camera came natu- rally to me, but for many others, it does not. Excellent lawyers will give a hundred excuses not to speak to the press. But, with the right message and strategy, it can be good to present your case in court and in the press. This article will cover how to develop your media message, effectively time that message, and finally, how to conform that message to the Rules of Professional Conduct. A media message is the theory of your case boiled down into a few sentences.

Often an initial message must be developed quickly, sometimes in as little time as it takes to walk out of a bond court hearing into a throng of reporters. The first message is important because making no comment leaves only bad facts to be printed or tele- vised. Remember, “no comment” is code for guilty. An initial message should rec- ognize the tragedy and proclaim that your client steadfastly maintains innocence. It can also introduce mitigation. The initial message of tragedy and innocence can be wrapped in a blanket of good facts about your client: hard worker, veteran, student, solid family, no criminal background. It does not matter what question is asked. “What about your client’s DNA on the

40 APRIL/MAY 2019

Made with FlippingBook Learn more on our blog