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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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