Often clients want media publicity. Clients think that pre-trial press coverage will help their case. We feel that publicity must be approached very, very carefully.
We are seeing now in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair the worst example of an injured victim and her attorney seeking pre-trial publicity. See the op ed opinion of attorney Brian Dwyer in New York Daily News.
The alleged victim and her attorney have embarked upon a press tour with the futile hope of bolstering not only her weak criminal case but supporting her civil case for money damages. In fact, Ms. Diallo and her attorney have destroyed both cases.
There are two dangers in talking to the press:
- The injured victim may give an inconsistent statement that can be used against her in court in either the criminal or civil case; and
- The injured victim may be viewed as being motivated by greed (a money damages lawsuit) rather than justice. This is the problem that Ms. Diallo faces. By her own admissions shortly after the incident, she is looking to a big payday.
We have learned the dangers of media coverage first hand.
We inheirited a case from another attorney where the lawyer allowed the client to be interviewed by John Stossel for a “20/20” segment on ABC television. It was on New York City Transit Authority accidents. The lawyer figured that publicity is good. In fact, the story hurt the client and helped harden NYCTA’s defense. First, Stossel’s story was about phony accident claimants. The client was protrayed as a crook. Additionally, the client was filmed walking, and this footage was used in the trial to show that he did not limp as he claimed.
Although it is very tempting to talk to the press and although there have been instances where a media campaign has paid-off for a client (particularly victims of police brutality), we do not believe in seeking press coverage.
When the press calls, think twice before speaking.
Mark E. Seitelman, 7/28/11, www.seitelman.com.