July 26, 2017

Staying in touch with clients

We recently learned two things about George Zimmerman, the accused shooter who was indicted on a murder charge in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

One is that his criminal defense lawyers dropped out of the case because they had trouble keeping in contact with their client. The second is that Zimmerman was talking to the media, despite his defense attorney’s best efforts to keep him from doing so.

“One of the things every defense attorney tells his client is don’t talk to the prosecutors, don’t talk to the cops, frankly don’t talk to anybody until we get control of the situation,” said attorney Hall Uhrig. Zimmerman’s second attorney, Craig Sonner said the two were withdrawing because “we’ve lost contact with him.”

For criminal defense lawyers, two lessons can be learned. One is to explain the media fascination with the accused. Zimmerman reportedly spoke with FOX commentator Sean Hannity. And while Hannity has pledged not to reveal the contents of the interview, he is under no obligation to keep his word – and he may become a witness, whether he likes it or not, against Zimmerman if the case goes to trial.

And lawyers should not only talk about traditional media contact – television, radio and newspapers, but the growing field of social media – Twitter, Facebook, and similar sites. This blogger, gives lawyers tips on how to inform their clients about such topics. “Do it early and often. … When you tell a client … not to discuss his (case) … specify that, by ‘discuss,’ you also mean ‘discuss on Facebook.’”

Social Media is a treasure trove for defense investigators as well.  Prior to a September 2010 trial, the defense investigator, Patrick Higgins, found a photo on MySpace posted on an alleged victim’s site wherein the masked individuals appeared to match at least in modus operandi the crime we were defending.  In a May 2012 trial, I was able to present evidence discovered by our paralegal that the alleged victim posted “…LOVING LIFE ;)” via her mobile phone to Facebook within an hour of first reporting the alleged crime.

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