Will the detritus from the Entwistle case never cease? An interesting thing happened on the way to summer last month. I haven’t yet talked about it here, but for some time I’ve wanted to. Here’s the background: The July 14 2008 edition of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the paper of record for the legal profession in Massachusetts, featured a front page, above-the-fold story headlined “Post-Trial, Entwistle Team Fires Back At Lawyers Who Offered Commentary.” In that feature story, which was written from a sit-down interview with both Elliot Weinstein and Stephanie Page (Entwistle’s lawyers,) Weinstein and Page railed on about how fellow lawyers who served as media commentators (like me) essentially had no business doing so, and were seemingly aligned against them and their client in that sad and tragic case. In the Lawyers Weekly story, I was specifically mentioned among other legal media analysts, as being “shameful” and “uninformed” in my media analysis of this case.
Actually, the precise language used by Weinstein and Page in that story was even more histrionic than just those two words offered above. Excerpts of some of their comments will follow in a later post, but for the immediate, let me ask: Will these two lawyers ever cease complaining? It really is rather pathetic, in and of itself. Here are two talented criminal defense attorneys, who apparently felt (and may possibly still feel) the need to carry on like two professional victims. When I first developed this blog, I wanted it to be about more than reporting news and developments in Massachusetts criminal law and criminal practice, important as those functions are. I also wanted this blog to be an honest approach to both the theory and practice of criminal law, to peel back the complicated layers and show what really goes on in day-to-day practice. As much as possible, I don’t want to varnish things in this blog.
In that vein, that means admitting when things have gone wrong in a given situation – whether by me, my colleagues, or anyone else. It also means doing the best I can, in the best way I know how, and not looking for excuses or scapegoats if things don’t go my way. If I can do that, why can’t my colleagues Weinstein and Page? Why must they persist in whining and complaining when things here didn’t go their way? Why must they have pointed the finger of blame at others, effectively laying the cause for their defeat on other parties, instead of taking their licks, standing tall, and resolving to do the best they can with their appeal? Acting in the manner these two lawyers acted post-trial, not only diminishes their own reputations, it does not help the image of the average criminal defense attorney, either. I’m fully aware of how criminal defense attorneys can be perceived by many members of the general public, and very unfortunately, a lot of it isn’t flattering. Behavior like Weinstein’s and Page’ post trial behavior doesn’t help.
When many members of the public follow a high-profile trial like this, where the evidence against the defendant was overwhelming, they observe more than just televised proceedings and the verdict. When, after the defendant is convicted based on this overwhelming evidence, they watch the defendant’s attorneys stand in front of the press and state that the judge was unfair in some of her rulings (on the venue selection, at least,); that the jurors were unfair, that the media was unfair and biased; and that even some of their colleagues at the bar who served as media analysts were unfair to them in their commentary and analysis, this damages the images and reputations of all criminal defense attorneys. These two attorneys would have stood much taller had they simply, after the verdict, stated something along the general lines of “We disagree with the jury’s verdict, but we will proceed immediately with our appeal, with the same zeal with which we tried this case before this jury. We will argue our legal issues before the Supreme Judicial Court, and have no further comment.”
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. More on what did happen, in my next post.