Defense to Patrick Regan: STFU
In Superior Court yesterday, defense counsel entered a motion to Enjoin Legal Counsel From Making Extrajudicial Statements regarding Litigation. In short, a gag order.
The defense maintains that Robert’s murder, “has been the subject of extensive media coverage for the last four years. Most of the media coverage has clearly implicated the Defendants of some wrongdoing, premised upon multiple inaccurate and untruthful assertions of the MPD and the USAO…
“The press coverage is necessarily having the effect of poisoning the jury pool, which threatening to make it impossible for the Defendants to find an impartial jury.”
Whether or not the Wone case “has been the subject of extensive media coverage for the last four years,” is certainly debatable, but more than likely what set this off were the remarks that Wone Attorney Patrick Regan, made following the last staus hearing. That “patently incorrect and inflammatory statement” may have stung more than any real or imagined drumbeat of coverage.
The documents follow and the supporting case law cites such standout trials that involved Scooter Libby, Blackwater Worldwide and Dr. Samuel Sheppard. Maybe not the best of company.
The motion goes on to say:
“On September 16, 2010, one of Plaintiff’s attorneys, Patrick M. Regan, addressed a collection of reporters outside the court house, where he made numerous statements about this case, including the following quote: “Defendants don’t assert their fifth amendment rights if they are not guilty of something.”
Clearly the defendants were put off by Regan’s tough comments, and in one of several curious footnotes, this one on page 7 of the Points and Authorities in Support, they call him out on it and contrast his scrappy courthouse trash talking to the lighter touch of his white shoe colleagues at Cov:
“In fact, one would expect that Mr. Regan’s co-counsel, attorneys at the law firm of Covington & Burling would take issue with Mr. Regan’s comments. Covington & Burling maintains a large white collar criminal defense practice, consisting of 29 partners who, per the firm’s website are “widely recognized not only for litigating and winning high-profile criminal cases, but also for devising creative legal strategies to resolve cases long before they draw public scrutiny.”
To us, “devising creative legal strategies to resolve cases long before they draw public scrutiny,” sounds like a clever euphemism for a settlement, but we doubt that’s the defense’s point here.
Another footnote, this one on page 4, points to an attachment in the document, Exhibit 5, and calls out The Washington Post for continuing to repeat and print the MPD and Government accusations long after acquittal:
“For Example, the press continues to report that the government contends Mr. Wone was sexually assaulted. See, e.g., Washington Post, “Wone’s widow wants phone records,” (Aug. 9, 2010) (“Authorities say Wone was drugged, sexually assaulted and stabbed after arranging to spend the night at the three defendants’ home.”)”
A small point, and while Keith Alexander may want credit for this story, it was actually an unsigned AP Wire piece, that surfaced in the news digest of the Metro Section.
The overall thrust of this motion is that a media frenzy won’t allow for a fair trial; any DC jury pool would be tainted, if it hasn’t been already. Lastly, on page 3, the intersection of traditional media and new and a blanket indictment of both:
“The media coverage has extended past the traditional mainstream media to the internet world of blogs leading to more widespread coverage. Unfortunately, all of the coverage has largely consisted of nothing more than parroting the latest and ever evolving rank speculation of various MPD officials, often speaking anonymously. American courts have long recognized the effect that a media circus similar to the one at issue can have on the public at large.”
As far as we can tell, the last time the MPD had anything of significance to say, on or off-the-record, about this murder, was not long after the defendants stopped talking about it as well. They’ve both been pretty much silent. And reaching back to the Warren Court to buttress their claim, the defense quotes this SCOTUS opinion in Sheppard v. Maxwell, (1966):
“‘…[m]urder and mystery, society, sex and suspense were combined in this case in such a manner as to intrigue and captivate the public fancy to a degree perhaps unparalleled in recent annals.
“Throughout the preindictment investigation, the subsequent legal skirmishes and the nine-week trial, circulation-conscious editors catered to the insatiable interest of the American public in the bizarre. In this atmosphere of a ‘Roman holiday’ for the news media, [Defendants] stood trial.”
It’s a real stretch to argue that the coverage so far of the Wone case resembles anything approximating a “media circus.” Certainly not the trial we attended. The public’s appetite for the lurid may not have changed, but the coverage for this summer’s criminal trial was muted when compared to those that constitute Cable TV’s nightly fare, or perhaps what we’ll see when Ingmar Guandique goes on trial for the murder of Chandra Levy within the next few weeks.
Pick your film, Roman Holiday or La Dolce Vita; the relatively restrained media covering the Wone case resembles neither of those press hordes. But perhaps the only element that resonates from either is a short quote from that Fellini masterpiece: “By 1965 there’ll be total depravity. How squalid everything will be.” Give or take forty years.
BLT’s Mike Scarcella offers this.
Motion to Enjoin Enjoin Legal Counsel From Making Extrajudicial Statements
Points and Authorities in Support