Kendall Coffey on the Adam Matos Trial

Posted on Dec 18, 2017 in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases

Kendall Coffey spoke with Heather Hansen from the Law & Crime Network about the Adam Matos murder case. 32-year-old Adam Matos has been accused of quadruple murder. Matos’ ex- girlfriend, her parents, and her new boyfriend were found stacked on top of each other less than a mile away from their Hudson, FL home. Heather is shocked that the defense attorneys haven’t questioned many of the witnesses, even under circumstances where it would be appropriate for them to cross examine. Coffey believes the defense team recognizes how brutally the victims were murdered and with the overwhelming amount of evidence, there’s not much they can do. They expect the defendant to be found guilty of all charges. The most they are hopeful for is for some of the jurors to be against Matos being sentenced to death. Kendall adds, that in very difficult capital murder cases, it’s a huge win for the defense team when the client is sentenced to life in prison as opposed to the death penalty. In some cases, this is the best they can...

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PoliticKing With Kendall Coffey: Trump Contends With Moves By Mueller

Posted on Nov 10, 2017 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Media Appearance: MSNBC with Kendall Coffey

Trump Contends With Moves By Mueller & Hands Over Documents In this interview with Larry King, former US Attorney Kendall Coffey responds to the Trump team’s turnover of documents to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Coffey rejects the notion Mueller’s request implies criminal conspiracy, but rather is simply following protocol in any investigation. Moreover, he explains that documenting and labeling every communication – be it a “scrap of paper” or email – between the Trump campaign and related parties is a prerequisite to speaking with key witnesses. In this way, investigators can catch them on misinformation and omissions of truth and differentiate between “collusion”, which is not a criminal act, and “criminal conspiracy” which is punishable. Full video is here....

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Spinning Wheels: The Television Interview

Posted on Jul 27, 2017 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Attorney at law, legal analyst, high stakes litigator, and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey discusses the importance of the television interview for law spinners. Television interviews can be a great forum for getting a message to the public. But they sometimes offer pain as well as gain because, in many ways, the broadcast venue is less forgiving than a judge and jury. During the Elián [González] case, I appeared in dozens of national news interviews over a four-month period in 2000. As I discovered immediately, each interview required the same intense level of preparation that lawyers require for a closing argument, except that closing arguments rarely occur between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. – that is, when network morning shows were starting their day with Elián. The time of day was manageable – no one on our team was sleeping much. As I soon learned, however, there were other factors that made television interviews and court appearances about as similar as Oz and Kansas. Superficially, a reporter’s interview consists of questioning lawyers about the client’s case. Just as judges question them in a regular courtroom. And, like good judges, good reporters typically ask thoughtful questions that intellectually challenge the attorney’s position, especially in high-profile cases where reporters can take the time to study the issues. Judges and juries, though, while holding the actual power of decision, are almost always a more hospitable venue than the networks. In a courtroom, judges and juries actually want lawyers to do their best and are often uncomfortable, even frustrated, over courtroom stumbles. As judges and jurors watch a lawyer walk across the legal tightrope, they want to see him or her safely reach the other side, even if they do not agree with that lawyer’s perspective of the case. In high-profile cases, on the other hand, television interviews might just as soon see the attorney stumble precariously on the tightrope with arms flailing, perhaps hanging on by a finger or maybe even falling. Legal missteps, like other unexpected twists, are simply more newsworthy. And the court of law is more forgiving of mistakes than the court of public opinion. When attorneys misspeak during court proceedings, their corrections are routinely accepted. Regarding damage control for televised mistakes, however, there is usually more damage and less control. In contrast to ongoing court proceedings, there is no second chance for correction after the interview is concluded. And while all judges know that smart lawyers are capable of saying dumb things, neither the media nor the public seem sympathetic when ill-advised mouthings come from professional mouthpieces. Also crucially different is the appetite for conflict. Judges and jurors rarely enjoy contentiousness between opposing attorneys. To the contrary, when judges ask questions, they often look for areas of agreement between lawyers and are usually gratified when opposing lawyers seem to agree on significant issues. Talk shows, however, do not stage...

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Entrapment: Stuck in the Trap or Beating the Rap?

Posted on Jul 17, 2017 in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases

When the police place the bait and defendants take the cheese, can they get out of the trap? Learn more about Kendall Coffey on his profile on Super Lawyers. The term entrapment is a favorite of the television law shows. It is frequently understood to mean that when a defendant takes the bait dangled by police, the entrapped defendant can count on an acquittal. The scenarios for setting up defendants are known as “stings” and are a common tool of law enforcement in cases ranging from public corruption to drug deals. Thus, the Department of Justice has long recognized that undercover operations have been “especially effective in public corruption investigations.” In one of the most famous of sting operations, the FBI during the late 1970s provided a fake Arab sheik who approached various members of Congress to lure them into accepting a bribe on videotape. By 1981, the “ABSCAM” investigation had netted convictions of six members of the House of Representatives and one US senator. Unsurprisingly, there was little applause from Congress, which criticized the FBI’s tactics, finding that the “use of undercover techniques creates serious risks to citizens’ property, privacy, and civil liberties.” Responding to such concerns, the attorney general imposed a broad array of preconditions limiting future attempts to use a sting operation to “set up” a public official. There were, of course, completely fictitious bribery shams, and there was neither a real sheik nor a real transaction to be purchased with bribe money. Even though a sting operation does not present a real-life deal and rests entirely upon a fiction, courts nevertheless hold that the conduct of the defendant is as criminal as if the participants were real. The cry of entrapment is frequently heard outside the courtroom when defendants are strung. In the actual trial, though, entrapment is a difficult defense to win. As the US Supreme Court explained, rather than the government’s conduct, “the entrapment defense focuses upon the intent or predisposition of the defendant to commit the crime.” The absence of a defendant’s preexisting criminal tendency must be clear. Most basically, a defendant has to show that he was actually turned into a criminal by the enticements of the police. If the defendant was simply repeating an already-existing practice of similar misconduct, he was not entrapped – he was just finally caught. An entrapment defense is a high-risk strategy. Presenting entrapment requires acknowledging that the defendant perpetrated the acts alleged by the prosecution. Instead of rolling the dice and taking this huge gamble, defendants may prefer to argue that their words and actions had meanings that were innocent rather than criminal. Because sting operations are planned in advanced, they typically have audio and video recordings to capture every memorable moment. After the arrest, the defense listens carefully to such tapes to decide whether to argue that the defendant’s conduct was arguably innocent (deny,...

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A Media Primer for Spinners: Silence is Golden, Especially When Required

Posted on Jun 29, 2017 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Kendall Coffey is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and founding member of Coffey Burlington, PL. Learn more about his expertise in law on his personal website: With legal news, as with diets, some of the most delicious tidbits are off-limits. In fact, some laws make it a federal crime to disclose confidential information about especially sensitive subjects. In cases with national security implications governed by the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), a leakster could potentially face criminal prosecution. Grand jury proceedings are also confidential, and prosecutors and government agents could be prosecuted themselves for disclosing those secrets. Significantly, witnesses are under no such restraints, and some are surprisingly talkative. In ordinary circumstances, the rules prohibit attorneys from creating publicity that they know or should know will have a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing” the judicial proceedings. Publicity hounding early in a case is more tolerable, but as the trail draws near, the risk skyrockets that publicity reaching future jurors will influence their later decisions. Judges understandable perceive that the likelihood of prejudice is great with publicity that is near the time of trial as opposed to negative stories much earlier that are mostly forgotten by the average juror. Moreover, for prosecutors at least, extensive chest thumping about their case is rarely a good idea. Especially if defense attorneys are seeking to move the case to a different city, they will pounce upon press-happy prosecutors as purveyors of excessive pretrial publicity that prejudices potential jurors. An even greater restriction on press communication is, of course, the gag order. Although the term gag order is often used loosely to describe an assortment of limitations, in its extreme form, a true gag order prohibits virtually any communication about a pending case by the litigation team or courthouse personnel. Ordinarily disfavored due to concerns for rights of the press and public, gag orders were imposed in the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials because nothing else could adequately protect the defendants from barrages of relentless news coverage. Some confidentiality orders are less drastic, even routine. For example, in cases about business trade secrets, courts frequently prohibit the disclosure of confidential processes, patents, or formulas. Perhaps because these restrict access to technical tedium rather than to courtroom dramas, they are often agreed upon by all parities and raise fewer objections from the...

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