cover image Spinning the Law: Trying Cases in the Court of Public Opinion

Spinning the Law: Trying Cases in the Court of Public Opinion

Kendall Coffey, foreword by Alan Dershowitz. Prometheus, $26 (356p) ISBN 978-1-61614-210-0

Coffey is a former U.S. attorney who now plies the airwaves (he has appeared on the Today show, Larry King Live, among others), offering commentary on high-profile and sensational legal cases. As U.S. attorney in Florida, he was involved in such cases himself: the Elian Gonzalez case and the 2000 presidential recount. Now he calls on his experience to deconstruct the art and theory of media manipulation in this candid, and cynical, look at how lawyers use the media to shape public perceptions of their clients including Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, and O.J. Simpson. His modus operandi is to give a short example of a media ploy, such as the decision to put Kobe Bryant's alleged victim's sexual history in play, and to follow the example with a pithy "Spinning Lesson" such as "Questions with shock value have news value." Coffey is knowledgeable about the nuances of spin, but his flippant style, although often entertaining, can be out of sync with the sordid cases and the often offensive and borderline ethical behavior of the spinners. Coffey ends with a sentence championing the virtues of the Constitution. It might just be spin. (Sept.)