I work with a fair amount of attorneys involved in high profile cases. Sometimes I work with the attorneys one-on-one. I teach them how to try their cases in the media. I explain how to answer a question without answering it i.e. there’s a gag order but the reporter wants some sort of statement. I also teach attorneys how to shorten up their speeches and speak in soundbites.
Other times, I work directly with their clients. Before I do, I help the attorneys understand how their client’s testimony will play out in front of jurors and in the media. I work with the attorneys on their client’s testimony in the courtroom, as well as their soundbites in the media. At the end of the day, the messaging is much the same in both arenas.
Jose Baez and Gary Giordano
This morning I turned on Good Morning America and there was Jose Baez (Casey Anthony’s attorney) with his newly released client, Gary Giordano. Giordano was held in Aruba for 116 days, suspected in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Robyn Gardner, while they were snorkeling in Aruba on vacation. Authorities focused on the fact that Giordano had taken out a $1.5 million travel insurance policy on Gardner the day before they left for Aruba. But ultimately police in Aruba were unable to make any charges stick. Giordano was released. He arrived back in the U.S. yesterday morning.
Mistake: GMA Interview
In my humble opinion, Jose Baez should never have let his client speak in public. He came off as very, very defensive. He also didn’t appear to be terribly bright. To be fair, he just got back from Aruba and I am sure that he was exhausted. (All the more reason not to subject him to a network news interview.)
From a purely superficial point of view, Giordano looked a little like a snake oil salesman that you don’t quite trust. Right or wrong—people make judgments, based on the way you look. Giordano’s two-tone hair (grey sideburns and reddish hairpiece on top) made me think of a desperate salesman, who was trying to offload some product that didn’t live up to its claims.
It was also a huge mistake to have Giordano’s three sons in the background of that interview. It looked staged and the boys looked uncomfortable. Why are you dragging them into this? Homecoming or not– they don’t need to be there. (To be fair, this could have been the idea of a producer at Good Morning America. But based on the way Robin Roberts referenced their presence, I don’t think so.)
To be clear—I don’t know if Giordano is guilty. That’s not for me to say. I do know that his appearance on Good Morning America did nothing to help his public image. If anything—it hurt his image. And while Jose Baez came off looking and sounding good—I do question his judgment regarding his responsibility to his client. He did not do Giordano any favors today.
I don’t think any amount of media training would have helped Giordano today. I think he was too exhausted and emotionally spent to have been effective at communicating his message. If Baez had really been looking out for his client, he wouldn’t have let him do that interview. Baez could have—and should have—handled that interview on his own. Then at a later date—he could have offered up an exclusive interview when Giordano was better prepared to defend himself.