The Champion

July 2003 , Page 16 

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Extrajudicial Statements: Don't Get Bitten by Your Own Soundbite

By G. Jack King

Over the past decade, The Champion has printed a number of articles examining the sometimes-gridlocked intersection where lawyers, fair trials, a free press and free speech meet. In my short career as assigned counsel in the District of Columbia in the 1980s, only one of my cases made the newspapers — and no reporter ever called me for a comment I’d prepared: “Mere presence is not a crime.” In retrospect, I see now that that kind of statement could have been an admission that my client had been present if the issue of identity had come up at trial. A great public educational soundbite in general, but immediately following the arrest would have been the wrong time to make it. Fortunately for my client, I was never asked.  

In the decade or so since, as a journalist for several legal publications and also as NACDL’s public affairs director in the late 1990s, I became more aware of the power and danger of extrajudicial statements made by lawyers on both sides of the courtroom.

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