Saturday, June 23, 2012

Just whose interest do you represent?

Joe Amendola said he would "die of a heart attack" if Jerry Sandusky, 68, was found not guilty of 48 counts of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
Ours is not an easy task. People call us because they are in trouble and need help. Some are wrongfully accused, others just want to get through the ordeal with as little pain as possible.

Television portrays a lie. All of Perry Mason's clients were innocent. They were victims of circumstance and Mr. Mason was able to force the real killer to reveal himself. Ben Matlock defended one or two folks who actually did the deed.

We walk into court with the knowledge that most of our clients are guilty and it's our job to defend that person as vigorously as possible. Is there a suppression issue? Inconsistent stories from witnesses? Does the officer have a skeleton in his closet? Can we conjure enough reasonable doubt for a jury to give a two-word verdict? Is the state's offer so unreasonable that we think a jury will give less?

All through the process our duty is to our client. Not to ourselves. It's not about press conferences and quotes in the newspaper. It's not about trending on Twitter. It's not about becoming a celebrity lawyer. It's about our client.

Everything you do in a case has to be done with the client's best interest in mind. And sometimes that means keeping your damn mouth shut when someone shoves a microphone in front of your face. Sometimes that means telling your client to keep his mouth shut when someone asks him a question.

It certainly doesn't mean letting your client answer questions on national television about showering with young boys. I can't think of any circumstance in which I would allow a client to do that. When Jerry Sandusky answered that question he admitted being a creep. There was no going back after that interview. There was nothing anyone could say to repair the damage.

Mr. Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, could serve as an example of what not to do when defending a man charged with sexually abusing young boys. Mr. Amendola seemed to be more concerned about seeing his name in print than he was with doing his utmost to limit the damage to Mr. Sandusky.

And just what in the hell was Mr. Amendola thinking when he told reporters that he would be shocked if Mr. Sandusky was acquitted? Sure, we've all thought it. We've all gone to trial with a case that we knew we would lose - but we don't get up and tell the world about it. What Mr. Amendola did was inexcusable.

Joseph Amendola, Sandusky's lead defense attorney, said in a press conference the trial was like climbing Mt. Everest, and "obviously we didn't make it." 
Amendola said they expected the guilty verdict, and said he wished he had had more time to prepare for the trial and review all the evidence. 
"I think most of you would have agreed with me that if someone said last November that if we had a trial in early June, that you would have agreed its not very likely at all," he said. "And here are, with a trail that has now concluded and its still the later time in June."

So Mr. Amendola wasn't ready for trial. Had he spent too much time trying to get his name in lights? Was he too busy making sure photographers got his best side and reporters his best quotes? Has he never heard of a motion for continuance. His client was out on bond and certainly was in no hurry to go to trial.

Of course it isn't Mr. Amendola's fault. He didn't commit any of the acts. He had to deal with what his client handed him. And he did a piss poor job of it.

Might we even question if going to trial was in Mr. Sandusky's best interest? What was the offer on the table? I wager to say that unless he walked he wasn't going to beat the offer. Maybe it was life in prison either way, I don't know. But a plea certainly wouldn't have made Mr. Amendola a media star.

Maybe it was all an elaborate ruse. Maybe the goal all along was to set up an appeal based on ineffective representation. All of the comments to the media. Allowing the interview on national television. Complaining that he wasn't ready for trial.

Maybe the lesson of all this is to remember to ask a prospective attorney if he's in this for you or for him.


Anonymous said...

Sandusky is what, 67 years old? I'm willing to bet that any plea offer was functionally equivalent to life without parole. No reason to not roll the dice with a trial, if so.

That being said, Joe's actions were just bizarre. What in the hell was he thinking?

Adam Poole said...

I agree that Amendola's comments are bizarre. I really get the feeling that he is covering himself and at the same time trying to set up the appeal. He didn't say his client was guilty he said he would be shocked if he weren't found guilty. He definitely put himself and his client in the poor me category of being forced to trial without enough time to prepare, and being ambushed with last minute discovery. That 11th hour disclosure that the defense's star witness was now claiming he was yet another victim... that's a pretty horrible thing for a defense attorney to deal with the night before they are about to put on their case.

As for the rest of your comments I can't agree. I looked at the mandatory minimums for these offenses. At his age I don't see any way that he could have plead.

As for requesting a motion for continuance, that was done... twice...and it was widely covered in the media. Amendola also tried to appeal the denial of the continuance. Also Amendola tried to withdraw from the case on the eve of trial because he claimed he did not have time to prepare. That request was also denied by the Judge.