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Public Statements Undermining the Viability of the Winston Case

Jameis-winston

The trial of Jameis Winston has already begun in the court of public opinion.

For the past eight days anyone with a Twitter handle and their own two cents has been able to weigh in on the situation that has surrounded the now week-old sexual assault allegations against Winston. Those allegations became public last Wednesday and since then a torrent of rampant speculation has continued to rage around Florida State and its redshirt freshman quarterback. 

There really is no way to describe this other than a circus, either. If this were an episode of Law and Order you'd criticize the writing as being too unrealistic. There have been fingers pointed, information has been leaked and conflicting statements have been made by the State Attorney, Tallahassee Police Department and the victim's family. 

And ironically, as Winston's trial in the court of public opinion continues it may be the very public nature of one of those opinions that will ultimately keep a real trial from playing out in a real court.

If Winston is charged -- and that is the 64,000 dollar question at this point -- pre-trial statements from the family of the victim and state attorney Willie Meggs could ultimately go a long ways towards getting the case tossed out and the charges dismissed -- at least in the opinion of some legal experts.

The statement from the family of the victim is less disruptive to due process but could still come into play at a later stage.

A victim can say whatever they want in a case like this. That being said, anything said can also be used as evidence. As one attorney told me, "if a victim is able to develop substantial local press, it could form the basis for an attorney to move to change venue.  The statements by a victim are also admissible at trial for, at least, impeachment of motive -- often used to explore whether the victim is trying to get a book deal, make money through public appearances, etc."

The more 'troublesome' of the public statements made in regard to this case was made by state attorney Willie Meggs though. Over the weekend Meggs told the AP: "Now they've been talking to lawyers, they've been talking to each other and getting their stories together. ... People have had 11 months to decide what they're going to say."

Attorneys are governed by the following rule in Florida:

Rule 4-3.6 Trial Publicity

(a) Prejudicial Extrajudicial Statements Prohibited.
lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding due to its creation of an imminent and substantial detrimental effect on that proceeding.

In addition, The American Bar Association has the following special rule on prosecutors. It has not been adopted in Florida, thus Florida attorneys are not bound by it, but it is worth noting.

Rule 3.8 (f) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.

Last Saturday Meggs stopped just short of telling the Associated Press, a national news organization, that Jameis Winston and his associates were perpetrating a massive cover-up.

In this case, as one attorney told me, Meggs' comment "is particularly troublesome, because it essentially alleges a conspiracy to obstruct justice and subordination of perjury, which are very serious allegations and probably not something that the prosecutor could prove. ... A statement like that can be used as a basis to file a motion to dismiss, alleging that the statements are so inflammatory and prejudicial that the defendant, particularly in light of his prominence and the knowledge that it would be used in the press, require a dismissal."

Jameis Winston could still be charged. That is well within the realm of possibility. But Willie Meggs -- who has accused the TPD of botching this investigation -- may have already laid the foundation for Winston's attorney to have this case thrown out. 

 

For all the latest Florida State news and update, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Comments

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Jamie

JWs story has ALWAYS been it that it was consensual. That one of the affidavits is from the accuser's roommate and the other is from another football player, both of whom were present (happened at HER apartment, not a bar, not a party, not JWs place). That both confirm that they had an ongoing relationship. That there are photos of the two of them together taken before AND after the initial allegation. That roommate claims she was pissed at JW for some reason that night and decided to claim rape. (perhaps because he told her his real GF was coming in town that day and to lay low). That she changed her mind after the call but before the cops got there but didn't want to tell them she made it up. (thus the "unidentified" rapist…intentionally fabricated description) That when she later was pressed, she identified JW and was questioned about her inconsistent statements and evidence of a consensual relationship and realized she better drop it. That when the accuser met with Meggs on Tuesday, she reaffirmed that she did not want to press charges. That every bit of evidence collected points to consensual sex and there is no way charges will be brought. That TPD and SAO are only trying to figure out how to clear JW without exposing/humiliating the accuser. Also, that JW informed Jimbo about it in DECEMBER of last year after he heard of the call to the cops and told him EVERYTHING (thus JF's continued faith in JW). Assuming any of this is correct (not that there is any proof of any of it) JW, JF and Jansens confidence is not surprising.

Cyrus

Lets wait to get the facts Jamie. I really really hope this is the case - but only a few days ago, the "word" around Tally was that Winston was only a witness breaking up a situation at a party between this girl and another player. There is so much misinformation out there.

Although - it's quite interesting that there were multiple witnesses who were providing DNA. Meggs was right when he said this case sure is "interesting".

Let's hope he didn't do anything wrong and that this is over for everyone's sake very quickly. But if he did do it, he deserves the equal punishment of any other rapist.

steve

Jamie

Where are you getting your information? I haven't seen any of that information anywhere in the media.

bbpbc

If the evidence were clear that he did do what is alleged back on 12/7/12, even the most ardent FSU fan would or should agree that he should have been charged by New Years. Instead the whole thing gets revived, in the media first, 11 months later at the peak of the cfb season. The timing of that makes the whole thing suspect.

Hoops

Yes, if he's guilty he should go to prison, however, at this point he is innocent and has a great deal to lose. In the letter from the family, they contradict themselves by saying they thought this was behind them yet also saying they've been waiting for DNA evidence. They talk as if they have been chomping at the bit to get something done, yet, she has moved on and thought it was over. This whole thing seems fishy, however, how can you blame Jameis for the delay. When his name was added to the report he got a lawyer and they sent in statements from witnesses. They were told this case was closed because the girl was not responding to requests from TPD. I'd like to know why they didn't close the case.

Nolan

Jamie,

She lived in a dorm at the time and tweeted that her roommate was out of town that weekend.

FSU Fan

I did not know who Winston was until this season started. It was only after his football success that all of this has resurfaced. The timing of it and all of the discrepancies should have this tossed out, guilty or not. No way a family would allow something so tramatic to happen to their daughter and not push for punishment immediately (especially if you know who did it). None of it makes sense.

Bobby Bowden

First Winston had never been at the scene of the crime based on TPD release of witness description.

The next story was that Winston was there but only to separate a fight.

Now, that DNA evidence incriminates him, sex was consensual.

This has been a cover up from day one with complicity between FSU and TPD, who think the performance of a football team is more important than justice. What a riot!

I see Winston in jail where he belongs, the NCAA imposing sanctions for complicity in covering up a felony and Jimbo Fisher fired for his complicity in the whole scandal.

Bring back Bobby (or one of his sons).

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