Tuesday, November 28, 2006

David Schwartz

criminal defense attorney and respected legal analyst
exclusive interview with www.schwartzdefense.com 's David Schwartz.

below please find the answers to the questions presented in number order as you list them in the questions

Scott Peterson

1. Do you believe that it is just to determine a verdict, or essentially make a case based solely on circumstantial evidence?

I believe that in many cases, circumstantial evidence can be stronger than direct evidence. Many cases exist where direct eye witness testimony is not credible based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the lighting conditions, criminal record of the eye witness, ability to perceive, eyesight of the witness, positioning of the witness, time of day etc. I have seen many strong cases that are based on particular circumstances that are simply indefensible.

2. Do you believe that it is just to give a death penalty sentence based on a verdict reached solely on circumstantial evidence?
No. I do not believe the death penalty is proper under any circumstances. As long as human beings are making these decisions on guilt or innocence we can never be 100% sure that a defendant is guilty. The killing of one innocent person would be one person too many for a civilized nation. We are better than that. moreover, DNA evidence has now exonerated over 100 death row inmates. That is a mind boggling number of mistakes. Thousands of other convicted felons have been exonerated on non death penalty cases.

3. How should reasonable doubt be presented by a prosecutor/defense attorney in a case of solely circumstantial evidence?

It is the prosecutors job to present evidence. It is the defense attorneys job to point out all areas that can constitute reasonable doubt. Every inconsistency, all credibility issues, alibi, affirmative defenses, sanity issues must be presented to the jury in order to create doubt in the minds of the jurors.

4. Why do you think there was so much public interest in the Scott Peterson case?

The media drives the public interest in the trial. The fact that lacy and Scott looked like the all American married couple, with a baby on the way, the fact that Scott was living a double life and the whole Amber Fry element was an attractive combination for the Peterson case to become an obsession.

5. Do you believe Scott Peterson was innocent?

No, I believe he did it. The question is did the prosecution prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

6. How do you feel about the death penalty overall?

As explained in question # 2, I believe the death penalty should be abolished. Almost all of the civilized nations in the world have abolished the death penalty. We can never be 100% certain of guilt in any criminal case. The death penalty is a barbaric solution to punishment, it is more costly than life in prison, you cannot reverse the death penalty, it is immoral and there is no correlation between the death penalty and the prevention of crime.

7. If you believe Scott is innocent, what do you believe happened to Laci Peterson?

I believe the only logical explanation that has been put forward is that Scott killed Lacey. Again, the question is, did the prosecution prove this theory beyond a reasonable doubt?

8. Some legal analysts said that for celebrities the states burden is to prove the case beyond all doubt? Do you believe this?
No. I believe the same standard applies to all defendants. The case against Jackson was simply weak.
9. On Court TVs Catherine Crier Live, Wendy Murphy said this jury had "dumb-juror syndrome." Your reaction to that?
I like Wendy but I believe she is dead wrong. We do not know who these jurors are. They made exactly the correct decision based on the evidence presented to the jury and the credibility issues of the prosecution witnesses.
10. You said that Tom Sneddon clearly had a vendetta against Michael Jackson, what proof behind it?
I believe his motives were clear. He has targeted Jackson for over 10 years. He illegally searched the offices of a defense retained investigator. The tone of this prosecution, the treatment of the witnesses, the approach of trying to embarrass Jackson at every turn, the fact that Sneddon himself went out on some of the actual warrants and his general demeanor pretrial and during the trial showed me a prosecutor that had a vendetta against Jackson.
11. Why was Tom Sneddon so obsessed? His motives?
He probably felt in his heart that Jackson was a child molester He did get completely caught up in the celebrity aspect of the case as evidenced by his press conferences.
12. Do you believe Michael Jackson is innocent?
I believe he was guilty of giving alcohol to a minor and acting completely inappropriately with children. I believe the parents of these kids were just as guilty for putting their children in these positions. I do not believe the evidence was credible to convict Jackson of Child Molestation.
13. What do you think Michael Jackson was doing with this boy, and his previous boys, night, after night, after night, after night...?
As a parent and a human being, I would like to believe that he simply was giving the children attention and offering them an innocent Disney world like experience. I cannot speculate if anything else happened. We were not there to know. The question again is did the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackson molested this child. I believe the answer is "NO."
14. The jury put much of their blame for the state not being able to prove their case on the mother, do you believe this is relevant?
The mother was a huge part of the failure. The mother put her child in this position at Neverland in the first place. The evidence was overwhelming that she orchestrated this whole case because of the money.
15. Were you in the courtroom or did you read a transcript of the mother's and accuser's, and accuser's brother's testimony? If so, did it sound scripted, rehearsed?
Scripted is a term of art. Most witnesses go through practice runs of the questioning. Many witnesses testimony sounds scripted because of preparation. I do believe their is some truth to the fact that the testimony was scripted.
16. Do you that in a child molestation/rape trial, having previous accusers testify saying, "I was molested," helps the prosecution? Why did it not help in the case against Michael Jackson?
The prior bad acts should have never come into the trial. It was highly prejudicial and many of the allegations were too remote. It did backfire on the prosecution because they had multiple cases of credibility problems to deal with. It did seem that the prosecutors orchestrated much of this testimony.
17. Do you think that if Tom Sneddon would of left out the conspiracy charge, he would of had a better chance of getting a conviction?
Yes, The conspiracy was ridiculous. The kidnapping, imprisonment, etc., all led to the downfall of the credibility of the prosecution. The case should have focused on just the molestation.
18. How do you think Tom Sneddon credibility came across to the jury?
The credibility of Sneddon was a factor in the case.
19. What did you think of the judge's rulings to not allow cameras in the courtroom?
I believe trials should be televised. My problem with the high profile case is the pretrial publicity. I believe all of the hype will taint the jury pool. My solution is to seal all of the proceedings up until the trial. Once a jury is impaneled, then the trial itself should be televised.
20. What did you think of the reporting during the trial?
21. How do you think the Jackson family rationalized so many little boys saying they were molested by Jackson?
Money and brainwashing. Many boys who testified said the they were not molested.
22. Paul Rodriguez said that their personal beliefs regarding the other little boy accusers, could not play a part in the determination of the verdict.
I agree. That is why the evidence of all other accusers should have been suppressed and the law in California to allow this evidence should be deemed an unconstitutional violation of a dendants right to a fair trial. A defendant should not be expected to defend himself against every prior unproven allegation of bad conduct.
23. Do you believe that if a jury believes an accuser's testimony with their moral heart and reasonable head, the state met the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt?
No, the standard is if the juror has a reason to doubt the evidence, then they should vote "not guilty."
24. What was your reaction to Ellie Ray and Raymond Hultman coming out after the verdict saying that they believe the boy was molested and that Jackson is a child molester?
I did not give it much thought, but those thoughts were inconsistent with their verdict.
25. Ellie Ray admitted to juror misconduct, should she be prosecuted?
Depends on the misconduct.
26. How do you think a jury determines the credibility of a witness in regular cases?
Courtroom demeanor, prior bad acts, consistency of their testimony, ability to perceive the facts, criminal record, profession, how they withstand cross examination, eye contact with the jury and questioner, body language during testimony, confidence.
27. How do you think a jury determines the credibility of a witness in celebrity cases?
same as # 26

28. We hear all the time about attorneys, having their personal story, their moral reason for doing what they do, do you have a personal story as a defense attorney?
I am a former prosecutor with the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. I represent average everyday citizens accused of a wide variety of crimes. I believe that practicing criminal law on the defense side has opened up my eyes on the injustices that take place everyday in the system. A criminal defendant that cannot afford an attorney is at a severe disadvantage in getting a fair result. The sentencing guidelines in most states are way too harsh. Every case is unique and should be handled in a unique manner and should not be lumped into categories. Criminal defense is a necessary part of the criminal justice system. I am proud of my achievements as a lawyer who practices criminal law. It is fulfilling to get a Heroine addict into a drug program rather than jail, or vigorously defend people who are falsely accused, or convince a DA that your client is not as culpable as they originally thought or to have a case dismissed based on a skillful application of the rules.
29. Have you ever represented a client that you believed was guilty?
30. Do you think mistrials come in the favor of the prosecution or defense?
Depends on the case. A mistrial usually favors the prosecution because they can refine their case and they learn what the defenses are.
31. What does it feel like when you spend so long in a case, and win? and lose?
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are as extreme as you would imagine. I like to think back on the victories and think about the rush of happiness both as a former prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney.
32. Would you ever consider being a prosecutor?
I have been a prosecutor and yes I would consider it in the future if the opportunity arose. Most prosecutors try to administer justice in a fair manner and it is just a few bad eggs that will do anything, including violating all of the rules of proper conduct in order to get a conviction. If I ever decided to be a prosecutor again, I know that justice and fairness to all parties would be my main concern.

33. We know now that Pamela Vitale, wife of Daniel Horowitz, was murdered, your thoughts?

Horrible tragedy and all of our hearts go out to Dan and his family. The suspect should be treated fairly, be represented honorably and be afforded all of the rights that any other criminal defendant has in the criminal justice system.

Closing thoughts

Criminal defense lawyers are a good group of people and constantly fight to make sure that the scales of justice are fairly tipped. Without us, the system would fall apart and the government would step all over our constitutional rights. Anyone at any time could be accused of a crime. People should get the very best defense that they can get. We are misrepresented on television and the media only covers the most hideous of all cases. We do great work on behalf of people and the great works of my colleagues and I should get more notoriety. Thank you for the interviews

Contact David Schwartz through his website: www.schwartzdefense.com


David M. Schwartz5402 Third AvenueBrooklyn, New York 11220718-492-7700SCHWARTZLAWFIRM@AOL.COM

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