tv [untitled] December 14, 2010 2:30am-3:00am PST
it. if we are not controlling our image, someone else is. so you have got to start thinking about the way that the image of the public defender is going to be portrayed, either in dramatic television -- over which you will have a lot less control. or certainly, in news media. years ago, i got a phone call from a public defender in san francisco. he had a case receiving a lot of media attention, and he wanted me to come to cover the case for 20/20. some of his colleagues thought he was not to. what are you bringing a barbara walters in to cover a case at the san francisco public defender's office? they turned their noses up at him and thought it was silly. jonathan mentioned, it is a
martyr complex, it is egotistical. some people said, you are being egotistical. it was month -- none of those things. he wanted attention in the case because he knew that it would help him win the case. it would affect the prosecutor's decision. it would affect the judge if it ever got to the sentencing phase. a ultimately, he won the case. your concern the influence the way public defenders are portrayed in news media, and perhaps those who write for the entertainment media. >> before i move into how we can change the image, and want to ask jonathan a question. today, how would you cast for the role of a criminal defense attorney for television? >> i have had the pleasure of doing that twice.
i created two series that nobody really watch. i have had the experience on two separate occasions, sitting with casting directors, trying to cast the role of defense lawyer. it is interesting, a defense lawyer can look american. kathy bates is playing one. jimmy smits is planning one. they focus group test television shows, like they do with new car models. the companies that do that work are the same month that two mock jury trials. so your audience is also a jury pool.
a defense lawyer are all the ones that you would imagine if you were describing gregory peck. someone with high integrity, someone who will do anything it takes to win. they do not have an expectation of what they need to look like. but those qualities seem to be universal. those have not changed. those are the same qualities they were looking for when perry mason was popular. old, traditional values. it seems to me if afl-cio can buy ad time on dodger games, i do not understand why public defenders cannot do the same thing. the last point i want to make, i served on the california judicial bench council on media. you may or may not know that
newspapers are cutting back their coverage of court to all the time. the tradition of the journalistic way of getting your story out does not exist anymore. that is bad but it is also an opportunity. the idea of blogging, the opportunity to step into this void in get your message out directly is incredibly important to your >> carol, what does blogging do for our public image? >> well, it may also get me fired -- [laughter] it is an easy way to publish. there are barriers to the press, but here is a little button that allows you to publish. if you can attract enough readers, you can get our message out. whether it is telling stories of public defenders in their
everyday life, which i have done, but also use it to try to use it as an incentive to think about how we can think about the public defender's office differently. to change things, perhaps. it is still a new form of media, so we are just starting to develop some of the ideas on how we can use it. >> can you give us examples of how your blogging has affected the media's influence on the public's perception? tell us about your blog. >> the fact that i am here says something. i wanted to speak to public defenders. they were my target audience. i wanted to give more cohesiveness. people from all over the country started contacting me telling me these stories about their day to day lives. i had some lawyers contact me
saying they had 400 felonies a year and only some of them are class a. what can i do? when those stories are repeated over and over again, it gained new momentum. the people trust me because they know i am one of them, not one of the others. with their permission, i have given information to professors who are doing scholarly studies, people who are more invested in change. it is a way of connecting with people and getting stories out. >> i am not sure the most effective way to communicate the message, but part of the message that jonathan is talking about, most of the victims and people accused of crime coming from the same place -- part of the message that needs to get up there, talking about
justice and all that, it is meaningful to folks like us, but it does not play all that well with people who are afraid of crime, people who are out of work. part of the message has to become it seems to me, going back to the sources of crime, not from an economic point of view, if you want to save money, you should do things that effectively will fight crime, as opposed to making you feel tougher and stronger. also, if you can get part of the message out that it is a tragedy when anyone is wrongfully convicted, for that person, for their family and friends, but the other part is, if there are wrongfully convicted, there is somebody out there who is
actually the criminal. part of the message has to be financial. we have been told for years people vote with their pocketbooks, so you have to make a financial analysis. i am certain it would save an enormous amount of money. it also have to get people to understand by making the criminal justice system work, you make yourself safer. not just by feeding your ego or feeding your prejudice, let's get them, let's get them. you never know when you are going to be one of them. [applause] >> that is a wonderful point. certainly, you said it much better than i was trying to. the idea of the justice system only belonging to the prosecution is what has to change. when i got to stand up and say
jonathan shapiro on behalf of the united states of america -- and the defense lawyer had to say joe smith for this shmuck -- you get a sense that the system has bought into it. if you convict an innocent man, you have committed a far worse crime than any other crime because you have let the guilty party off scot-free. that is incorrect incredibly -- an incredibly important message. if anybody is waving the flag, it ought to be the public defender's office. their reluctance to do so, somehow, the sense that if they do so in will make them seem pro-government or some kind, i have never been able to fully grasp. >> let me ask a question. should we remake the image of
the public defender in to the public crusader? is that what we want to do, do we need to, should we? >> i certainly think so. i bought into the public crusader thing when i was a child. ironically, here i am, not serving as a criminal defense attorney or public defender. i wanted to be a criminal defense attorney from the age of eight years old. i saw perry mason when i was a child. my father used to take me to the court house to watch the lawyers practiced law when i was 8 years old. i believe in the mission. i believe -- i am a true believer. i think those images influence
children. we have one here in the front row. some to serve as prosecutors first and then become criminal defense attorneys, but many of us want to defend the constitution and those rights from the very beginning, from jump. i think we do not just me to believe it in our hearts, we need to profess it publicly. i do believe, though, that jerry is right. it is not enough to talk about it amongst ourselves. it is a larger public dialogue that needs to happen in terms of the resources, the jury pool, and that means talking to people who identify more with victims. we now there are one in 100 people behind bars. that means one in 100 people knows somebody connected to the criminal justice system. that is a tremendous opportunity for us. that means there are people in every sector of society who
identify with our cause. that is when people start to understand the import of the public defender. i know very well not mind me saying this, but for the last 20 years, they have been talking about the innocent man who has been wrongly accused, and everyone thinks that is a terrible tragedy. nobody would think that that is right in america. but their message release started to sing when they shifted. we were working with them on this, at court tv, and i was the first reported to be covering the innocence project on a national basis. the message really started to sing when they talked about victims, believing for 19 years that the right guy was behind bars and then learning that the wrong guy was behind bars. twice victimized.
when the defense bar can start to work with victims rights movements. it is very hard to get the defense lawyer to think in those terms, but i think that is where we need to go. >> lawyers share some of the responsibility of their poor image, no question about it. there are some good ones, some bad ones. a very sad thing for me is that the law has become a media event, as opposed to a profession. there are lawyers to prostitute themselves on television, lawyers, talking about cases where they really do not know what is going on. they do a disservice to the public and to the profession. we need -- if lawyers are going to participate in the media, and they should -- whenever i thought there was something
negative, i responded. between 70% and 80% of the prospective jurors believe he was guilty, before a single witness was called. so the media does affect things, but lawyers have to take responsibility, too. lawyers have to rise above their ego. that principle which motivated them to become lawyers in the first place. it is not like we do not bear responsibility for our own image. >> we have some questions from the audience that we would like to ask. there is so much more we could talk about in terms of remaking our image, if we have to, and our responsibility to make that change, it is, in fact, it is needed. first question, based on the
discussion so far, i believe you are putting the cart before the horse. if the victim industry is so profitable and civilians, our clients, how do we as the attorney, change our image? shouldn't we be trying to change the public's perception of the system as a whole? >> i was trying to address that. dalton spoke to it as well. fih+-- jonathan spoke to it as. we have to make the á discussioa broader discussion, so that people understand how it affects their daily lives, how it affects the way government works. is there going to be money, our state parks going to be open, money for education?
what does this say about the state of california, where i believe the largest union is not the teachers' association, but the correctional officers association? what does that say about a society? when people find out about that, they are stunned. but that is the reality. that is what is playing on people's minds, fear, prejudice, ignorance. >> this also points to the fact of what we have to do in each individual case. that is what you're up against. and when you are in trial, the priority is your client, which is different from broadcast journalism, television drum up. -- drama. >> but you cannot turn a blind eye to it.
>> that question is deeply troubling when you look at certain cases. there are certain cases where it is a no-win situation. the robert blake case, when jerry managed to do was truly a lesson for trial lawyers across the board. the casey anthony case, now in florida. you have to think to yourself, how does she win a case like that? any casewh/vñ that received nationwide attention is lost before you walk into the courtroom. it then becomes your job to turn around. there is a presumption of guilt on any client and then you add the nationwide attention, it is insurmountable. >> so we have a responsibility to speak to the public? you have to figurer want to say in who you can say it to, but it seems like you are
say we almost have a responsibility. >> in most cases. >> aside from the attitude of public defenders, is there something inherently more challenging about being a defender in the limelight than being in the day -- a d.a? >> it is everything we have talked about. there is the inherent bias against us as a criminal defense lawyers. added on top of that is the fact that we have this position of incompetence, somebody who is new that does not know what they're doing.db& and that our clients are probably guilty or there would have hired a real lawyer.
it is amazing, considering those biases, that we speak to anybody in the press. why would we go to that source when our image has been so abused in? >> but how do we change if we do not go to the source? >> we have to, but you have to overcome that initial resistance. >> years ago i was involved in the case and one of the question was, what you think about prosecutors? wonderful. what about criminal defense lawyers? one person wrote just one word, sleazy. when i met him i said, we have never met, i did not take it personally. he said, oh, i meant it in a good way. [laughter]
people don't appreciate how important jury selection is. judges often totally lose track of that because they want to move these cases. particularly in the immediate case, but in every case. >> one of the members of the audience would like to know, how do get the public to understand our great work which involves the phantom of the guilty, and sometimes an acquittal for some? >> the medical profession accidentally butchers about 100,000 people a year. kills them. yet, people love doctors. this is a wonder to me.
i had the pleasure of convicting four doctors in my time as a prosecutor and my only regret is not convicting more of them. somehow, the public loves doctors. i do not know if there is a position in the government, the surgeon general, who represents the medical profession as a government, do good service. there is nothing like that for our profession. the ama does a lot better work and our bar association does. when jerry is representing robert black, he is working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, giving zealous advocacy for his one client. when the public defender is handling 400 felonies, they do not have time to remake their image. it seems to me the biggest problem we face is to recognize we have a problem. the problem is there is not an association or spokesperson who
represents the position. it is too much to ask the individual lawyer or public defender's office to do it, but a group of office is working together to pool their resources, to educate the public as to what they do in the interest of justice might actually start to change attitudes. >> last question. what effect has the "war on drugs" specifically, the rationalized profiling of drug dealers done to those parties involved and to the criminal justice system? someone mentioned "the wire."
>> everybody loves to talk about post-racial america. but i think most folks in this room would agree that we are not in post-racial america yet. this is almost another panel to talk about race in america, the media, the intersection of crime in america and race. there is, i think, a perception, among people in america that the victims of crime are different from who the victims of car really are. -- crime really are. those of us who cover crime i believe are guilty for creating the misconceptions. the crimes we cover, the stories
right, we use the criminal justice system as a social service center for problems that need to be addressed in other ways. [applause] i think that if people were told by the folks in my business that this is not an economically efficient way to do things, they might come around to doing things another way. but there are too many people interested in doing it the way that we did -- a way that we do it to get there. people in my business are not necessarily familiar enough with the criminal justice system to understand what it is the way it is. most of us do not come from this business, we come from the business of making news. i think that is a very difficult question. "the wire" in and of itself is a difficult and controversial
question since that program could generate a panel conversation, and i know it has and does. i think the public defender's role, just on the issue of drug crime and violence and reform, reform of the drug laws in the country -- i can only speak to the state of new york where i am. i think that is one place in which -- maybe when we talk about remaking the image of the public defender, we take it piece by piece is an issue by issue. maybe that is the issue where we start. if the task seems to great at first, in terms of resources, the case load, maybe we go issue by issue and that is the place to start, especially in the bay area and san francisco, where
the public would be more receptive to reform and hearing from public defenders on a given issue. >> anyone else? with that, i want to thank all of you and association has a media mmittee, and they're going to be looking at the issue, but we need a lot of people to get involved. four or five months ago, tom donald approached me. he is a director and directs commercials. he had a proposition that he would create a professionally produced public service announcement about public defenders, and how could i possibly say no to that very generous proposition? so i'm going to ask tom to say a few words about how he got the idea for this public service announcement. i think you will agree when you see it, it is unique. that you have not seen anything like this on television.
tom. [applause] >> i'm not an attorney. i'm a director and a film maker. i actually have a ball cap to prove it. [laughter] so i will put it on. we all learned this from steven spielberg, who popularized the use of baseball caps. jeff is right. i have been a longtime fan of jets for a long time. first, i want to thank him for the opportunity to make this peace. people in my position often talk about giving back, and it is usually worth about the price of the words, and nothing more. in this case, i have known jeff for a long time, and i know the good work that he does, and i really wanted to make the contribution that i could. we talked for a long time about themes for this commercial, and we decided -- kind of mutually, i think -- that the resumption of innocence -- i heard the panelists in both panels talk about this repeatedly -- is really about the highest ground
that his office to take in a broadcast television commercial. but beyond that -- i have forgotten her name -- very articulate young lady -- we were talking about post-racial america and how all of us collectively and singularly, the people on television and media, would like to believe that is in fact the case, and yet we all know -- i think everyone in his room at least can recognize that is not the case. really, this commercial is the marriage of those two ideas, the marriage of the concept -- that the concept, but the bedrock principle in our code of justice, which is the presumption of innocence, and the recognition if you well that we have a long way to go to combat stereotypes, prejudice, and outright bias, not only in the judicial system, but in our american society, and that is what resulted from the coming together of those two ideas you will see on the screen. [applause]