Lawyer denies trying to get TV station to cover his personal movie in exchange for interview
An Alabama lawyer has withdrawn from a Huntsville, Alabama, murder case after a local TV station alleged that he offered an interview about the case in exchange for coverage of his personal movie.
The lawyer is Richard Jensen, who told the ABA Journal that his frustration over the local media’s failure to cover his movie was misinterpreted as an offer to give an interview in exchange for coverage.
Jensen says he never comments on any of his cases, and he advises other lawyers not to comment when he teaches a continuing legal education program on criminal trials. But he says he was perturbed because the Huntsville media had repeatedly ignored press releases about his movie, which was filmed in Alabama.
After he told the reporter who called for comment, Brittany Harry of WAAY-TV, that he had nothing to say, she “gets petulant with me,” Jensen says. So he asked the reporter: Why would he give the media access to himself when the media didn’t respond to his press releases for a year?
Jensen says he told the reporter: If you expect me to give you access, you have to be accessible to me when I have something to tell you. But his statement wasn’t a demand for coverage in exchange for an interview, he says.
Jensen told the Journal that the local media should cover good things, such as his movie and its bolstering of the local economy.
“Huntsville media is crap,” Jensen says. “It’s just like Access Hollywood or TMZ. It’s just smear and smear and crime.”
Jensen’s anger at the media spilled over into his motion to withdraw from the case.
The motion said Jensen “doesn’t want his recent personal interactions—and the resulting fake controversy—with the ‘gotcha media’ to negatively impact” the case of his police officer client.
Jensen had been appointed to represent the officer, 28-year-old David Michael McCoy, who was charged with capital murder in the Jan. 7 shooting death of Courtney Spraggins.
The reporter, Harry, told Jensen that she was sorry for the delay, but she was talking to the news director about his request. This conversation followed:
Jensen: “That was a delay? Oh, OK.”
WAAY-TV reporter: “For the Jan. 21 movie premiere.”
WAAY-TV reporter: “We are not comfortable doing that. If you want to go ahead and send us the press release for the movie premiere, maybe we can make it out, but we are just not interested in doing that in exchange for an interview. So that’s the situation there. We would still like to talk to you about the case, kind of about what we discussed earlier, if that is something you would be up for.”
Jensen replied that he is going to decline comment at this time.
The request for a gag order said the media “has a terrible record of printing matters inaccurately, thus inflaming” potential jurors. The request sought a ban on comments by anyone involved in the case.
Jensen told the Journal that he routinely seeks gag orders in murder cases, unless the police narrative has to be corrected. The media “act like I filed that motion to get back at them, and it’s absolutely not the case,” he says.
Jensen’s movie is called No Man’s Law. He wrote, directed and starred in the movie, said to be about an ex-border patrol agent who rescues a migrant girl.
The movie has been accepted at film festivals, where it has received 11 best picture awards, Jensen says. It has already been sold for distribution.
Jensen stars as the border patrol agent in the movie, which is about human rights, he says.
“What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong, or have we all forgotten that?” he said while in character in the movie trailer.
Updated Jan. 13 at 9:30 a.m. to include the ABA Journal’s interview with Jensen.