Bad Interview

Ken AshfordCrime, Racial HomicidesLeave a Comment

Here’s a tip from one lawyer to all other lawyers out there: Don’t let your accused client go on television unless you (and your client) really know what you are doing.

And that sounds vague to you, then you don’t know what you are doing.

Look, 95 times out of 100, you are not going to turn public sentiment in your favor after giving a television interview, unless you give a mea culpa.  “I did it, I am guilty, I’m sorry”.  Anything other than that — a defense, self-pity, etc. — it will backfire.

I write this because Robert Bates, the 73 year old white reserve sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed black man earlier this month, went on the Today show this morning and gave a rambling interview which did not help him at all.

He disputed a local newspaper report that alleged his bosses had falsified his training records.  The Tulsa World reported Thursday that supervisors in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to sign off on field training and firearms certifications that Robert Bates did not complete, citing multiple anonymous sources.  “That is not correct,” Bates said, adding that he has proof of his training “in writing.”

Today’s Matt Lauer also asked Bates, a wealthy 73-year-old insurance executive who is close to the sheriff, to respond to the characterization that he paid to play a cop.  “That is unbelievably unfair,” Bates responded. “I have donated equipment as I saw fit when the need happened to arise to allow the task force and other areas of the sheriff’s office to better do their jobs on the streets of Tulsa.”

Which didn’t answer the question.

And finally, Bates said he accidentally shot Harris because he mistook his handgun for a taser while trying to help subdue Harris. At one point in the interview, Lauer asked Bates to stand up and show where he keeps his taser in relation to his handgun when he’s on duty. Bates demonstrated that he keeps his taser inside his protective vest on his chest, while he keeps his handgun on his side near his hip.

I believe Bates when he says he didn’t do it on purpose.  However, nobody is accusing him of doing it intentionally.  He is charged with reckless manslaughter.  That’s what they charge drunk drivers who kill someone (they don’t intentionally kill either).

I have no sympathy for Bates, but I think the real story lies with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the reason why this old guy, well past the age of retirement, was on the force in the first place, and whether or not he had been properly trained.