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Zimmerman Legal Commentators

Beware of Legal Commentators!

As the Zimmerman trial begins, I feel the need to caution one and all to be skeptical when legal commentators talk about the case. Of course, many of the commentators offer useful insight and an understanding of the procedures which govern state criminal trials in Florida. However, too many commentators seem to have an agenda (without declaring so).

For example, current prosecutors and too many former prosecutors analyze the happenings in the case from the prospective of the prosecution, while purporting to be “objective”. And, my fellow criminal defense lawyers often do the same.

As a practicing criminal defense lawyer for almost forty years, and as a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, I want the public to hear advocacy from both sides. I want people to understand how criminal trials work and how the presumption of innocence must govern every aspect of a criminal case – from investigation, to arrest, to resolution of the case.

As a legal commentator for many years, I know the benefits of having an experienced trial lawyer explain the nuances of a trial. I have repeatedly heard people say that reporters and “anchors” who are not lawyers simply are unable to provide an in-depth evaluation, and therefore, their reporting is often simplistic and repetitive.

My point in today’s blog is simply this: if a commentator is on the air to give a certain point of view, say so! For example, if a prosecutor and a defense lawyer are on the air together and are identified as “a prosecutor” and as a “criminal lawyer”, then the public understands where the commentators are coming from. If an attorney is the sole guest commentator, whether he or she is a prosecutor or a defense lawyer, then they have a duty and an obligation to try to be objective and to present all sides and perspectives. Advocacy is for the courtroom – and in the media, but only when the players are properly identified.

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