Litigating The Court of Public Opinion

CaptureIn a speech directed toward the Greater St. Marks Family Church this past Sunday, Al Sharpton’s vitriol spewed from many angles and can be summarized accordingly:

Michael Brown is gone. You can run whatever video you want. He is not on trial. America is on trial! I have never in all my years seen something as offensive and insulting as a police chief releasing a tape of a young man trying to smear him before we even have his funeral.”

But I query, is Sharpton’s speech insightful or incite(ful)? For the life of me, I cannot understand the demands. Everyone wants justice form Michael Brown. But from face value, all I see is Sharpton and other protesters demanding instant justice.  Will all Ferguson riots disappear simply with the arrest of Officer Darren Wilson?

While Brown supporters claim police are smearing a good kid’s name, it should be remembered Brown supporters are smearing the officer’s and prosecution name as well. Even after forensic pathologist hired by the Brown family stated all of the bullets entered Brown from the front, the Brown family attorney claimed he was “executed.”

Having traveled the Mideast and witnessing a few executions, I can confirm that what happened to Brown was not an execution. Executions I’ve seen never looked like what happened to Michael Brown.  This doesn’t mean Brown should be dead either. But before placing our own, eye for an eye justice mentality, it’s important to remember the United States has a legal process. And that legal process hasn’t opined.

In our rush for Brown’s sainthood, we are subtly convicting Darren Wilson. This trial mob mentality is no different than those commonly utilized by some remote tribal court. The backstage strategic puppeteering that all high-press cases engage in, and had better engage in, is quite amazing. Literally, the unique role of today’s lawyer is litigating in the court of public opinion. Contrary to public opinion, circumstantial evidence and personal bias shoved down a listener’s throat is just as powerful as physical evidence. Brown’s attorneys are prepping future jurors.

Brown supporters, police and the Sharpton’s of the world deal cards in a life or death game – and everyone is getting played. Come time for a jury to sit and opine upon Officer Wilson’s fate, no one will remember Wilson’s “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket.” However, most will remember the Ferguson riots, the looting and the word ‘executed.’

Remember the buzz words, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit?” Defense lawyers for O.J. Simpson mastered the court of public opinion. Robert Shapiro  and Johnnie Cochran persona, Simpson’s celebrity and televised trial riveted the nation. By the end of the criminal trial, there were dramatic differences in Simpson’s guilt between most black and white Americans.

In November 1998, Bill Moushey and Bob Martinson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a 10-part series, “Win At All Costs,” exposing where federal agents and prosecutors pursued justice by breaking the law.  In the series, the two wrote: “They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury and set up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions.

Let’s face it, Officer Wilson’s trail is occurring as we speak. And to be honest, the Officer Wilson has no chance of winning.



Categories: Life Lessons

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