October 28, 2013

If you spend $1 million on your defense lawyer, how can you credibly claim you didn't even get the constitutional minimum, effective assistance of counsel?

Cynics will say, the way to do that is: 1. Get convicted because a well-paid lawyer wasn't able to persuade a jury to see reasonable doubt, and 2. Pay more money for more lawyers and persuade a judge of what you need to overturn the conviction. And super-cynics will add: 3. Be a Kennedy.

But just because you paid a million dollars doesn't mean your lawyer was any good. Michal Skakel picked a TV-talking-lawyer-head. And maybe that's exactly the screw-up a Kennedy would make — mistaking superficial appearance and fame and money for competence.

24 comments:

Hagar said...

Michael Skakel is a Skakel, not a Kennedy, and at the time, I was more than a little worried that the media was convicting him of being a Kennedy.
I do not know about his lawyer, but it was a celebrity trial, and the media were all for hanging him, never mind the evidence.

MadisonMan said...

A fool and his money are soon parted, even if you are a Kennedy.

Edward Lunny said...

The law is for little people, just like taxes and mandates

Big Mike said...

mistaking superficial appearance ... for competence

You got any other explanations for the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections?

southcentralpa said...

Oh, yes, all lawyers act ethically at all times and never shenaniganize with opposing counsel. Not saying it happened with Skakel, but to say (as your headline suggests) that getting an expensive attorney in and of itself guarantees satisfaction of all Sixth Amendment concerns is a bit overbroad, methinks.

Scott M said...

The Kennedy's superficial?

I disagree. When one of them drives a car into a creek, it STAYS in the creek until the job is done.

PB Reader said...

Money is no guarantee of competence, but a high-profile blabbermouth attorney allows you to participate in the court of public opinion. Perhaps once an attorney is engaged on either side, they should be barred from talking to the press, and an attorney who has been talking to the press on the case should be barred from engaging in the case.

The Drill SGT said...

Hagar said...I do not know about his lawyer, but it was a celebrity trial, and the media were all for hanging him, never mind the evidence.

There is a huge bit of irony by a Celebrity equating competence with celebrity

cubanbob said...

If you believe the victim clubbed herself to death then of course Skakel is inocent and Sherman was ineffective.

Jim said...

"mistaking superficial appearance ....for competence." Sort of like the dems in '08.

Martha said...

Skakel thought Sherman did a heck of a job until he was convicted and exhausted all his appeals.

elkh1 said...

When John Roberts was asked how he could lose his Supreme Court appeal by 9-0. He said because there were only nine Justices.

Skakel lost because he was guilty?

CatherineM said...

Hagar, he traded on his Kennedy connections and they usually get you out of jail, not in it. All the cousins showed up to support him.

B said...

IIRC, a few Kennedys who were personal friends with Skakel quietly and unobtrusively attended the trial, but the Kennedy clan didn't offer any overt support even though the Kennedys still had a lot of public influence back then. With Teddy now gone, the Kennedy connection has a much reduced clout in New England. There's been far too much bad press concerning the several current Kennedy generations in the news and the old machine is just that, old.

Hagar said...

I have no opinion as to whether Michael Skakel is guilty or not.
All I am saying is that I have no confidence in "the American system of justice" once the media vermin begin to howl and clamor for hanging.

Hagar said...

and that is as operative for a Kennedy relative as for a Zimmerman.

Carl Pham said...

So $1 million seems like more than enough to buy first-class lawyering when you're charged with a murder umpty years ago?

Well, I know how that goes. I still feel like 80 cents is more than enough to pay for a mere gallon of gasoline, and there's no freaking reason a house should cost more than $50,000 unless it's in Manhattan or something.

From Inwood said...

Mickey S hasn't been on TV much lately!

Seriously, when all other appeal routes are gone, claim inadequate representation!

in other news, from http://abovethelaw.com/, Jodi Arias wants to fire Kirk Nurmi, her lead attorney, claiming in a 12-page handwritten motion that he has an “utter poverty of people skills.” ABL notes that her words hurt as much as her stab wounds.

In other news, the World Series has been a series of mishaps & bungling. Fire the managers!

PS I have a strong suspicion that this Kennedy cousin is guilty & not the bushy-haired stranger.

PPS: A good roman a clef about the, er, incident is Dominick Dunne's A Season In Purgatory, which, if not true, is "true enough".

PPS His ex, Lis Wiehl is a talkinghead on FOX. One thing about such talkingheads is certain: They are always certain!

The Drill SGT said...

PPS His ex, Lis Wiehl is a talkinghead on FOX. One thing about such talkingheads is certain: They are always certain!

reminds me of a Magee Smith line in Downton Abbey about a murder trial.

"The Lawyers are always confident until after the verdict. Only then do they share their doubts"

From Inwood said...

Big Mike

Good comment.

BTW IMHO, Prof A underestimates the Kennedy cuz’s lawyer, Mickey Sherman. He was not some stumblebum who had only defended perps from Inwood in arraignments in traffic court, some obscure political hack, some old drunk in a Lifetime movie who hadn't tried a case in years, or some hack lawyer on MSNBC defending the ObamaCare train wreck. In any event, he, formerly a TV Talkinghead, who had had much success in criminal trials, after, according to WIKI, having served 1+ years for faiking to pay income taxes, hasn't been on TV much lately!


From Inwood said...

Drill SGT

Good one. I must remember that.

BTW, the TV talkingheads were all over the place about the "obstruction/interference" call in Sat Nite's WS game.

I'm not being smug here. I didn't have access to the MLB rule & at first blush it seemed like a bad call to me. But I would have prefaced my remarks as being off the top of my head before I "expertised" on TV

Big Mike said...

@Inwood, once I saw the third baseman's legs rise up to trip the base runner, it was a clear case of impeding the runner. My Little League days are roughly 60 years in the rear view mirror, but I remember the rule.

Kirk Parker said...

Hagar,

Whatever happened to the one-drop rule? I'm sure Skakel got some Kennedy in him via osmosis...

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If your argument is that you had a case that should have been good enough to convince a jury, and it doesn't, what other explanation is there besides ineffective assistance of counsel?

Before answering, keep in mind that you will only want to present answers that will get you released from prison.

Can a judge and jury be so incompetent that you have been effectively deprived of your right to trial by a jury of your peers?

The appeals court may not want to admit that, so it's easier to lay if off on the defense counsel.

Perhaps it is in the adversarial system the job of the counsel to educate the judge and jury up to the level of competence to render a just verdict.

If you fail at that as a defense lawyer, you have rendered ineffective assistance. It is easy to imagine a judge or jury so bad that no defense lawyer could render effective assistance, no matter how much time or money had been spent on it.

Should not the defendant in such a case go free?