Koskoff Attorney Bill Bloss Interviewed About High Profile Cases in the News: Jackson, Hernandez, Bulger, and Zimmerman
- WATR-AM Radio
- July 10, 2013 11:30 a.m.
- Waterbury, Connecticut
HOST LARRY RIFKIN: Out in L.A., Tinseltown, it’s going to be a little bit nicer than it is here I would imagine. And to tell us that is Attorney Bill Bloss from Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. He’s out in L.A., of course, working on the Michael Jackson case because of his unique expertise. And Attorney Bloss, thanks for joining us once again here on WATR.
ATTORNEY BILL BLOSS: Sure. My pleasure.
RIFKIN: Well, this isn’t the case that most of us are talking about, I’ll admit, because most of us are talking about Aaron Hernandez or George Zimmerman. But tell us how the case is going out in L.A.
BLOSS: Well, we’ve been at it for about two months. The case is about the decision to hire Conrad Murray and whether the company that the family says hired Conrad Murray made a mistake in both hiring him and in keeping him on board. And we’re about, like I say, two months into it. Probably another, oh, I don’t know, month, six weeks, eight weeks go to.
RIFKIN: Okay. Now, what kind of circus is going on out there? Because there’s a real circus – I mean, even Marsha Clarke, I mean, she is back talking about the Zimmerman case on CNN or one of the channels. So, tell us what kind of attention this is getting out in Los Angeles.
BLOSS: Well, it’s getting a fair amount. This is the first time I’ve really spent much time in Los Angeles and I guess at one level I understood that it revolves around the entertainment industry, but I can’t overstate how much it revolves around the entertainment industry. There, they are, the movers and shakers are alert to what’s happening. Let’s put it that way. You know, all the little local outlets. It’s a little bit disconcerting, actually, questioning witnesses at the trial because in one ear you’re listening to the witness answer and in the other ear you’re listening to all the reporters tweeting every answer. And so it sounds like there’s a bunch of crickets in the back of the courtroom and, you know, you really, that’s the first trial I’ve ever had where it’s like that.
RIFKIN: What are the implications of this trial to the entertainment industry?
BLOSS: Well, you know, that’s a really good question and we’ve talked about that a little bit. You know, one of the medical experts that I questioned, the head of the Sports Medicine Department at Stanford University, said, you know, this might be the case that causes entertainment producers and companies to be as careful when they get into medical issues as now professional and college sports teams are with sports doctors. You know, in other words, the, it used to be that the doctor was really conflicted when he was working for a sports team. You know, do we put the quarterback back out on the field or do we try to look at his long-term health? What, do we win the game now or do we try to protect this guy ten years down the road? And the sports medicine industry went through a revolution in the past 20 years, making sure that doctors aren’t conflicted. And at least his view was, you know, this may lead to that same issue in other industries or the same resolution in other industries as well.
RIFKIN: Yeah, that’s a great point. And when we turn to the Aaron Hernandez case, of course the question, you know, how much should Mr. Kraft have been concerned about the moral compass of this guy? I mean, how much did everybody push him through the system, allowing him some of these excesses that everybody saw? He was such a great physical specimen coming out of Miami and yet he dropped, I think, to the fourth round because of a lot of concerns about him as a person. I mean, I think this might play into, you know, some of those considerations going forward in terms of citizenship on the part of some of these guys?
BLOSS: Well, you know, it’s one of those – it’s not exactly a surprise that there are double standards in our society, that athletes or others who have special skills may, the police may look the other way, prosecutors may just say – close their file a little bit more quickly than they would if it was you or me. It sounds like Hernandez had some scrapes certainly at Florida. It wouldn’t shock me if he’d had some scrapes in Bristol that maybe people looked at, looked at differently because of who he was. You know, the NFL, I think what’s fascinating is that at least the Patriots were convinced that he’d turned the corner because they just gave him this big, new contract. I mean, I understand that he slips to the fourth round and they do very detailed psychological testing and background checking and that’s probably why he slipped to the fourth round. But at least the Patriots were convinced he’d turned the corner. That’s the only reason they give him this huge contract.
RIFKIN: Yeah, and, of course, he had a son or a daughter and he said, you know, now I’ve really learned what life is about, really going to be a changed man. Now, as you look at this Hernandez case – and, of course, it’s got more than a little bit of Connecticut in it. Yesterday they found a vehicle at his Bristol home or the home of a relative which may have been used in a double homicide. And then, of course, we’ve got this other case with the semi pro ball player who was just killed. And they went to his house, evidently, and they found certain things, but we have been told that they had really cleaned this house a couple of days into this investigation. Evidently, you know, wondering what it was that they scrubbed this house for. I mean, as you looked at this as it was unfolding, how odd did the circumstances surrounding this seem to you?
BLOSS: Well, you know, what Hernandez did after, in the day after the event is what we in the criminal defense or criminal prosecution community call consciousness of guilt. You know, if you’ve got a home video, home security video or you’ve got a cell phone that can track your movements – which they all can – and all of a sudden two or three hours after an incident you’re destroying the hard drives, you’re getting a cleaning service to come into your house, you’re scrubbing. You know, I’ve never done any of those things, Larry. I don’t know about you, but I…and it’s not a big leap from there to an assumption or a belief, by a conclusion by a jury, that the only person who does that is somebody who’s trying to hide something. That’s a completely reasonable inference.
RIFKIN: Yeah. Now, it said yesterday that documents show a man linked to the murder case against him told police that Hernandez admitted firing the fatal shots. So, I mean, this thing is moving quickly in a very bad direction for Aaron Hernandez. What does celebrity status, you know, have to do with any of this or does it have nothing to do with it at all?
BLOSS: Well, I think it’s going to be a little bit harder to get maybe, to impanel a jury. And there are going to be two kinds of people who may have trouble getting on the jury. One is people that are, for whatever reason, want to protect Aaron Hernandez or protect a celebrity no matter what. And the other is the people who want to punish the celebrity. It does make it a little harder. And everything is going to, and obviously the more press attention there is, the less likely they’re going to be completely neutral veneer [?] members, jurors, potential jurors. It complicates it, on the other hand, you know, if you can get a jury in the Zimmerman case or the Michael Jackson case or any of these high profile cases, O.J. Simpson. Look, they’ll be able to do it. It’s not going to be –
RIFKIN: Well, I guess somebody who turned in their Hernandez jersey at the allowance of the Patriots and exchanged them for another, they may have trouble getting on the jury if they admit that they turned in the jersey.
BLOSS: Oh, yeah. And assuming they’re honest about it, you know. The big risk in a celebrity case is that the jurors may have an agenda, or potential jurors. They may either want to get on the jury because they want to go on, you know, they want to write a book or they want to go on the talk show circuit or whatever it happens to be after the trial. Or, they want to get off the jury because they know that this is going to be a long, tense jury and there are going to be people angry at them no matter what they do. So, look, it does make it a little harder, but I’m confident they’ll work that out.
RIFKIN: Well, you look at Massachusetts now and it’s the epicenter of what’s going on. Tsarnaev, of course, they’re going into a hearing today, the first time that people will have seen him, the terror suspect number two. So, that is going to take up a lot of the ink. And then, of course, the Whitey Bulger case, which is certainly getting a lot of attention up in Boston.
BLOSS: Well, and that’s a fascinating trial, although, you know, I think that what happened yesterday was amazing. I don’t know if you saw about that.
BLOSS: It’s one of those times you kind of wish there were cameras in the courtroom, but federal court really doesn’t ever allow that. The prime informant against him, his former partner who cut a deal with the feds to get a five-year sentence for multiple, assisting in multiple murders, testified against Bulger and Bulger and he exchanged words, cross words, that I won’t repeat here out of deference to your FCC –
RIFKIN: No, I actually may do it with a certain amount of discretion because it is quite an exchange that went on. But at any rate, go on. I’m sorry.
BLOSS: Yeah. But – and this was all in front of the jury. So, you know, the judge – it sounds like the judge has run a pretty good trial up there, actually, but the marshals had to get between, between these two. You know, my experiences in those kinds of cases is that the informants like that in federal trials tend to have a great deal of credibility with the jury. It may well be true, as the defense attorney was saying, that look, this guy cut a deal to basically get out of jail free. You know, five years for five homicides? That’s a great deal.
RIFKIN: Yeah, a year a kill.
BLOSS: On the other hand, the juries tend to trust the government in those cases, tend to trust the prosecution, that the prosecution wouldn’t cut a deal like that if it wasn’t true what the guy was saying. So, you know, look. Bulger, at age – what is he, 83?
BLOSS: He’s got nothing to lose, obviously. He’s going to spend – likely to spend the rest of his life in prison no matter what happens. So, you know, it’s, really I think the under story is the more interesting story in that case and that is the involvement of this rogue FBI agent from south Boston, Connolly, who, you know, if you believe some of these witnesses, was working hand-in-glove with Bulger all along. It certainly is not a positive development.
RIFKIN: Yeah, well, that’s what I wanted to ask you about because you said, well, you know, we’ll trust the prosecution because this guy worked out a deal. But on the other hand, Weeks said that he had learned that Bulger and Flemmi, who was another one of his gun guys, had been FBI informants for years and they had been working with the FBI. Then you’ve got Connolly who seemed to be working with the mob. I mean, at the end of the day, how do we look at this? I mean, when we’re looking for a good guy, you know, here in America somewhere, I mean, when you look at what was going on in south Boston all those years and even his brother, who was the head of the Senate, saying, oh, he never did drugs. And then others are saying, no, he was totally the guy who controlled the drug trade in south Boston. If you were going to move anything, it had to go through Whitey Bulger, and you have the FBI cooperating or working with him. I mean, where are the good guys? I mean, and how – or is everybody bad?
BLOSS: Or probably were there bad people within the ranks of the hopefully good guys. You know, and that – I think it’s naïve to think that every single, every, every single law enforcement officer in the United States is a great guy. Are the great majority, the overwhelming majority, great guys and women? Of course. Are, do they make sacrifices that you and I haven’t had to make? Of course. On the other hand, just as a matter of statistics, as a matter of, of odds, there are going to be some that take money. There are going to be some that lie in reports. There are going to be some that testify falsely. I don’t think it means – I don’t want to read too much into it because there are a lot of FBI agents and I think the great majority of them would stand between, you know, a gun and you to protect you.
RIFKIN: But let me ask you, in this case, how much blood on his hands does someone like Connolly have? Because this was a gang that operated with impunity, you know, for years. Lots of killings, lots of mayhem. I mean, they were just a dominant force. To what extent can we pin that on the cooperation of the FBI?
BLOSS: Well, the FBI or that agent?
RIFKIN: That agent, but also the FBI…
BLOSS: See, that’s the distinction that I think is important to me.
RIFKIN: Well, but also with the FBI having him, you know, as an informant, kind of letting Whitey go on while he helped him to some extent, I mean, you know –
BLOSS: Well, and, look, that happens. There is a – I represented a guy years ago in New Haven who was an informant and who credibly said to me, look, you know, I got away with things that I shouldn’t have been able to get away with and the police looked the other way because I gave them information about, about other fish. Not necessarily even bigger fish, but other fish. And so, you know, there is a- it’s not unprecedented that there’s an ‘end justifies the means’ kind of analysis by some people within the legal community and they may say, look, I’m going to close my eyes to what this guy is doing on this street corner as long as he gives me evidence to go after the guy on the other street corner. I mean, that’s not unprecedented.
RIFKIN: No, I know. But given how much of the street corner Whitey Bulger took up, he’s just one of those guys you say, you know, I mean, you cooperate with some of his underlings to get to him. It’s kind of like even in the Sopranos when they had some guys who were cooperating, but they wanted to go after Tony. I mean, he was the big fish. I mean, Whitey Bulger in Boston was the big fish.
BLOSS: Yeah. It certainly, obviously, as to Connolly doesn’t reflect at all positively on him. Does he have blood on his hands? You know, if these guys are to be believed, sure.
RIFKIN: Okay, this is Attorney Bill Bloss, Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. If there’s any questions that you have about any of the cases that we’re talking about, 203-583-8634. Then, of course, George Zimmerman. I mean, this has become such a cause of celeb for so many. I’m really kind of amazed that I think all three of the cable news channels have been devoting almost full-time to this. Tell us, dynamics wise, are you surprised at all the attention that this is getting or should we have known right out of the box with Treyvon Martin and all the concerns about whether this was a, you know, white on black or Hispanic on black attack, that this should not be surprising the attention that it’s getting?
BLOSS: Well, you know, I guess I’m not surprised, frankly that, because it’s become almost a proxy for how we view race relations. And, yeah, it’s an unarmed – I mean, let’s call him a white – you know, at least I understand he’s half, his dad. His mom was Hispanic. But, you know, it certainly has become kind of a proxy for how we view race relations in some respects and, as well as your right to defend yourself, your right to bear arms, the rest of it. It, I guess I’m a little – the fact that it’s 24-7 on some of these channels is maybe a little surprising to me. But, um, it fills in so many different levels. It’s important in so many different layers. I guess, I’m not stunned. Let’s put it that way.
RIFKIN: But as a law case, I mean, you look at it, I mean, there’s no question that he did shoot Treyvon Martin. There’s no, you know, no one’s questioning that.
RIFKIN: I guess the question is, was it commensurate force, who was the aggressor, did he feel that he was in eminent danger of losing his life? I mean, these are the questions that bear on this. And, you know, even at the end of the day, if he doesn’t get second degree, he could get manslaughter. So, I mean, how well do you think the two sides have been performing? A lot of people have been very concerned that the prosecution has been underwhelming in this and that the defense seems to have the better of the arguments. What do you say?
BLOSS: Well, I’ll tell you. There’s – the prosecution may be just doing the best it can with what it has, to be honest. And I think there’s a couple of things about this case that are important from a legal point of view. I think, for example, the, since I started – I started practicing 30 years ago. And 30 years ago, scientific evidence in criminal cases, it was used, but, you know, it wasn’t the centerpiece. Now it’s kind of like life is imitating art. Jurors want to see the CSI, you know, the crime scene investigation. They want science to show them how it happened. And I think as evidenced yesterday from the firearms, from the forensic pathologist who said that when the weapon went off, that it was against the shirt of Martin, but the shirt of Martin was hanging three or four inches away from his body the way it would be if Martin was leaning over Zimmerman. You know, I think jurors today in 2013, after seeing all of these forensic show on TV, that’s what jurors expect. You know, they expect somebody to explain to them how it is that it happened in a scientific, physical, forensic way. I think they’re going to be, I think they’re a little bit surprised that their, that voice recognition software can’t show whose voice it was on the tape saying, you know, crying for help. We’ve heard everybody come in and say, well, it was Martin’s. Martin’s father comes in and says it was my son’s; Zimmerman’s father comes in and says it was my son’s voice. I think the juror’s going to say at that, well, wait a minute, you know, if they can’t prove whose voice it is crying for help, what are we supposed to do?
RIFKIN: Yeah, they could on NCIS. I mean, why can’t they do it?
BLOSS: Right. Exactly.
RIFKIN: What about the simulation that they’re not letting in?
BLOSS: You know, I, the judge in that is in a really tough spot because some of the simulation is really just based on inferences and guesses that there isn’t going to be direct evidence of and particularly if Zimmerman doesn’t testify. Now, if he testifies I think it maybe comes in because he can say, yeah, that’s what happened. I’d be surprised if the judge let that in. It’s a very smart move by the defense, but I’d be surprised if she lets it in.
RIFKIN: Yeah, do you think he’ll testify? Most people think he’ll never take the stand. He already had a statement that came into evidence, so some people just say it would be ridiculous to put him up there for cross examination.
BLOSS: Well, I’ll tell you, my, my views on the defendant testifying have turned around 180 degrees. It used to be, kind of the classic position is the defense attorney should never, you know – the presumption is you don’t put your guy on. You don’t allow him to testify because nothing good is going to happen. It can – you know, other convictions can come into evidence or his statements to the police come into evidence, etcetera. On the other hand, I think that even though jurors are instructed, look, you can’t hold it against him if he doesn’t testify, that’s just a very, very, very hard instruction I think for people to follow and to accept. You know, if you have two kids and you say, well, which one of you stole the cookies and one of them says it wasn’t me and the other one says I take the fifth. You know, what do you do? Really you don’t take that into account. I understand it’s different being in a jury and we’re supposed to be able to follow the judge’s instructions. I just think it’s very hard. On the other hand, in this case, he has effectively testified by his statement to the police and it sounds to me like the defense is ahead, whether you like that or not. I wouldn’t put my – I don’t think I would him on, no.
RIFKIN: What about – when you say ahead, does that mean that he may get off with nothing at all or a lesser charge? Because even with manslaughter, he could serve a couple of decades. Do you think it’s altogether moving in their direction?
BLOSS: Well, if the defense is confident – you know what this case is about? It’s about reasonable doubt and has the prosecution proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt? And after hearing this evidence the last few days, it’s a little hard for me to see how there’s not reasonable doubt.
BLOSS: Now, but look. The thing that complicates it at a moral level is that Zimmerman initiated the contact and that really, you know, for me and for you, this really, that seems like maybe that should matter. You know, he was told by the police we don’t need you to follow him. You know, he made statements to the police that Martin’s up to no good when in fact all he was doing was walking through the neighborhood. And so at one level, at a moral level, he’s wrong because he’s the one who initiated the contact. On the other hand, legally under the Florida ‘stand your ground’ law, he’s, he’s, is it clear that he’s not wrong beyond a reasonable doubt legally? That’s the thing that complicates it and that’s I think why people are going to – if he’s acquitted, I think people are going to have a hard time. Some people are going to have a hard time accepting it because he is the one that started the contact.
RIFKIN: Yeah. The other thing that’s really confusing is, I mean, there was a professor who said that he took a course, George Zimmerman, and they expressly taught the ‘stand your ground’ law. So, he was very clear that he understood, you know, what that allowed him to do and maybe gave him some flexibility in doing in a case like this, yet he denied that he was paying attention during that or he denied that he knew anything about the ‘stand your ground’ law. And yet this professor said he was in my class and he was an A student.
BLOSS: Yeah. Well, and it’s – he doesn’t have to know anything about the ‘stand your ground’ law legally in order to take advantage of it. But it’s a – the thing again that complicates it is – and there is a clear flavor that he’s a cop wannabe. You know, he’s a, he thinks that he’s out there protecting his community and he’s the one that initiated the contact. He’s the one that multiple times called the police about people just walking through the neighborhood with, you know, less than favorable things to say about them. So, you know, that’s the thing that makes it a little harder to accept in addition to the fact that Martin obviously was unarmed and there’s no evidence that he was doing anything wrong.
RIFKIN: Yeah. And was it a commensurate response to the threat. And that’s difficult for people to really get because they’re trying to understand exactly, you know, why he felt as threatened as he did and there are conflicting stories about that. Well, listen, I want to thank you so much for taking time away from the Michael Jackson case to be with us today. Attorney Bill Bloss, Koskoff Koskoff and Bieder. Thank you for going around the horn with us on all these cases. I appreciate it.
BLOSS: My pleasure, Larry. Thanks.
RIFKIN: You have a great day.