Prosecutor’s Ethical Duties – How Much Publicity is Too Much?
Aside from the legal obligations and fiduciary duties that lawyers are governed by, there are also ethical rules that govern attorneys. The basic ethical rules include duties to be diligent and keep clients informed, as well as rules that govern how lawyers are supposed to speak in public when discussing their cases.
Now, how many times have you seen a prosecutor on a news talk show such as “Nancy Grace” discuss an ongoing publicized criminal trial? I’ll speak for myself and say many, many times. However, it is not often that the prosecutors speaking out about an ongoing case are the same prosecutors that are working on that trial. That’s probably because they know they would be walking on very thin ice. Well, a prosecutor named Mark Lindquist from Pierce County, Washington is learning the hard way.
Mr. Lindquist now has a bar complaint against him after appearing on HLN’s “Nancy Grace” to discuss a murder case during trial. Before I get into details, I’d like you to read a section from the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. “The prosecutor in a criminal case shall: except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused. . .”
Keeping this in mind, here’s some of the dialogue between Mr. Lindquist and Nancy Grace:
Lindquist: And that’s the whole question. Was this an accident? Was it intentional? And that’s why the defendant’s experience with firearms is critical to the case. But it’s not just that physical evidence, it’s the behavior afterwards.
Lindquist: The defendant never called 911. He never called for help. He seemed more focused on cleaning up the scene, disposing of the liquor bottles …
Lindquist: … than getting help. And it’s his actions combined with his statements…
Grace: Behavioral evidence.
Lindquist: … and his experience with firearms that add up to murder, rather than accident.
Now, you be the judge. Were Lindquist’s comments “necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose?” Unfortunately, prosecutors around the nation engage in unethical conduct from time to time. If you or someone you know has been negatively affected by a prosecutor’s unethical conduct, call a competent legal ethics lawyer immediately to ascertain your rights.
— By Ara M. Baghdassarian, Esq., Barnes Law
Ara is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in California.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.
 Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3.8(f); http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_3_8_special_responsibilities_of_a_prosecutor.html