Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Should Doctors Or Professionals Talk To Police? If So, When? L.A. Times' Article: Jackson's Doctor's Case May Hinge On His 3 Hour Police Interview

The Los Angeles Times article today regarding cardiologist Dr. Conrad Murray's criminal case highlights what happens when someone is interviewed by police before charges are filed. Here is a link to the article:

Michael Jackson's doctor's case may hinge on his police statement -

Dr. Murray spoke to police last summer for 3 hours with his attorney present. The L.A. County prosecutor in this case is claiming that the involuntary manslaughter charge is based in part on what came out of Dr. Murray's mouth, i.e., that propofol is a very dangerous drug.

What can we learn from this?

Some criminal defense attorneys will say - aha! what a stupid mistake - I NEVER let my clients speak to the police -- with or without me.

That is an unsophisticated view since most experienced white collar defense attorneys know that the best way to win 100% of your cases is to persuade the police and prosecutors NOT to file charges against your clients. So any hard or fast rule either way is suspect.

Dr. Murray's current attorney is trying to use the 3 hour conversation to his advantage: Dr. Murray had nothing to hide.

My thought is that there is no one way. Each case is different. But the one rule I have is that before my client speaks to the police (ONLY in my presence) we will be 110% prepared since we will have to live with those statements for the next 3 years and we don't know which twists and turns an investigation can take place.

I do NOT want my client to build a case against himself. Thus, if I know that the police will file charges against my client no matter what we present in terms of documents and statements -- then there probably is little point in the interview unless there are other good reasons such as minimizing the charges filed or educating the prosecutors when I know our facts will not change.

The second rule is that no falsehoods can be uttered during that conversation. We need to show that my client tells the truth.

The third rule is that no mistaken facts can be uttered during that interview since those can be portrayed as falsehoods or "lies." Thus, if my client does not know, he says he does not know or can look at records and find out.

There are more rules but this is dangerous territory since much ground can be said in a 3 hour conversation. The lawyer and his client need to be in control of the interview to the extent possible. Once control is lost - that is a problem. The lawyer and client also need to know as many facts as possible before submitting to the interview.

A high profile death such as Michael Jackson's is one that police will not leave alone with a mere statement. I would have asked: what do your medical records for Michael Jackson look like? Are there problems? Will this also be a Medical Board case? Perhaps we should submit the facts you want to get across in a proffer letter on my letterhead rather than a freeflowing interview where you do not know what will be asked.

Typical words to my clients when we analyze to submit to an interview or not: Think big picture. Look ahead and down the road, past the curve where you cannot see. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst in making these decisions.

Lawyers can always Monday morning quarterback. Law is often more of an art than a science. Educated decisions, however, are important.

A felony complaint is only an accusation is not evidence of guilt. Dr. Murray is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Should you have any questions regarding your own situation or this post, you can email physician attorney Tracy Green at Green & Associates is located in downtown Los Angeles, California and focuses their practice on the representation of licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings. They have a specialty in representing licensed health care providers. Their website is:

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