Simple answer, my clients.
We live in a world of hashtags and five second sound bites. Reputations, careers, relationships and basic liberties are at risk with the mere accusation of a crime. An arrest booking goes out, a mug shot posted and your life goes viral. How does an individual respond? They can’t. I can.
There are few in the media who play by the rules all of the time. Presentation of an evenhanded and balanced accounting of events hardly sells, so there is usually a rush to publish without seeking parity and fairness. I have experienced the extremes of critical statement elimination to inclusion of quotes that I never gave – with many points in between – just so that the editors can have their way.
When anyone is charged with a crime, the very evidence which supports their innocence may not be available for weeks or months. Basic police reports, witness statements, videos, laboratory results and other essential evidence are rarely available to the accused or his attorney until after the institution of prosecution. Reporting on incidents without basic facts can hardly be considered the hallmark of professional journalism, but that is how it is.
When I am called to serve as the buffer between the rush to judgment based on innuendo and supposition I will always do so. Unlike the media, I am bound by rules of professional conduct. It is my obligation to protect the interests of my clients and safeguard them from undue prejudice. If a lawyer chooses not to afford protection from these threats, he is violating his oath as an attorney and is subject to sanction.
So therein lies the dilemma. Quotes such as “no comment” and resorts to platitudes usually translate to “he must think his client is guilty”. Whereas, a factual presentation as to how the process works and what the challenges are, fail as a story because of a lack of sexiness by the media.
Every story has many sides. An accused has a voice which must often lay silent, patiently waiting in agony. It is urged forth in metered whispers as facts and evidence can be revealed in the slow and complex system that holds it prisoner. The true story, in time, will be told if there is the patience and openness to accept it.