A criminal defense attorney’s thoughts on guilt, innocence, and media
Full disclosure: I am a die-hard New York Giants fan. The kind of Giants fan that wears an Eli Manning Jersey. In South Jersey. I’ve been a fan through four (4) super bowl wins. I’ve also been a Giants fan through three (3) straight seasons where my team was at the bottom of the league. It’s a life filled with ups and downs.
I am also a criminal defense attorney. I’ve practiced criminal law almost my entire legal career, including over ten (10) years as a prosecutor. I’ve prosecuted and defended everything from a speeding ticket to murder.
As a Giants fan, you come to expect disaster. I don’t have the time or emotional capital to review all the heartbreaking losses over the history of the team (blowing a 22-point lead in the third quarter of the playoffs in 2002).
I don’t have the energy to explain to non-Giants fans the pain of living in South Jersey and losing to the Eagles eleven (11) of the last twelve (12) matchups.
I’m not inclined to deep dive into our numerous draft busts (*cough* Ron Dayne *cough*) or the way the universe decides to destroy our hopes and dreams with ridiculous and absurd events (remember Plaxico accidentally shooting himself when we were 10-1 and on our way to repeat? That happened.)
So I can’t say that, as a Giants fan, it was all that shocking to find out that our starting cornerback, DeAndre Baker, was charged with Armed Robbery last week. He’s young: only 22-years old. There were rumblings about his character and work ethic. And (after all) it’s the New York Giants. Why not…
The initial charging document is damning on its face. It alleges that police were called to a residence on May 13, 2020, in Miramar, Florida. At least four (4) witnesses, in various forms, claimed that Baker was present at a party taking place at the residence. After losing a gambling game he brandished a firearm and took various items, including jewelry and watches, from victims. He is alleged to have ordered one of the party goers shot. The victims claim that he and his cohorts, one of whom is also an NFL football player, were wearing masks and left in three (3) different cars that were “pre-positioned to expedited [sp] an immediate departure from the area.”
Now the media had a story in a world where everything is COVID-19. Within 48 hours stories leaked that there were warning signs before Baker was drafted. His guilt was a foregone conclusion.
Let me say this at the outset: I have no idea if DeAndre Baker is guilty or innocent or something in between. There is a process that must play out. The prosecutor must prove his guilt and Baker has no obligation to prove his innocence. But that’s court. The reality is that the internet and media move faster than the courts. The charges and his mugshot are out in the open right now, and the court of public opinion has convened. Some of the most difficult cases are those that are in the papers because every bit of initial information released to the public is about the allegation. Like most things in life, there are almost always two (2) sides to the story. One side doesn’t get much of a chance in the beginning.
For right now – Let’s take a look at the charging document through the eyes of a defense attorney. Is there anything that seems off? Well….
First of all, the probable cause statement is not a police report. It’s the cliff notes (sorry – Wikipedia for you younger readers) version of the case. It doesn’t have all the relevant or necessary information. It’s just a document to support a criminal complaint that alleges the basic facts of an investigation.
The probable cause statement starts off by stating that the police were requested to respond to a robbery that had occurred 45 minutes earlier. Wait…. 45 minutes? What were the callers doing for 45 minutes? Seriously. Stop what you are doing and wait 45 minutes to continue reading this blog. That’s how long it took the alleged victims to contact the police. So Baker and others, armed with guns, take thousands of dollars of property, speed off and there’s a 45 minute pause?
That’s weird. And raises questions.
Then there’s the allegation that they were wearing masks. OK. So are most people right now… And the cars? They were “pre-positioned to expedited [sp] an immediate departure from the area.” That sounds a lot like they were “parked” to me. Then there’s motive – whether these professional athletes, making millions of dollars, had any incentive to risk jail time by committing a robbery where they would almost certainly be caught due to their fame.
Again, I’m absolutely not claiming that Baker is innocent. There’s a legal process that must play out. If he is guilty he most certainly should and will be punished. But this case is a reminder that the print, television and especially internet media will not wait for this process. Perhaps at the end of it all, this case will be a reminder that we should.
Robert M. Perry is a Partner and the Head of Criminal Litigation at the criminal defense firm of Rosenberg Perry & Associates. Mr. Perry is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Criminal Trial Attorney.