Lola, Daval, Bardon… How do lawyers work in high-profile cases?

With the pressure of the media and public opinion, the lawyers feel they have to come out of their reserve so as not to let “one party” speak.

Alexandre Martin has been the lawyer for Romain C., the man who confessed to having raped and killed Vanesa, a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Tonneins, in Lot-et-Garonne, since Sunday evening. A new file which arouses the attention and the emotion of public opinion for the one who already defends Cédric Jubillar. The Toulouse council arrived in this case after the suspect was taken into custody while his first lawyer withdrew.

“We read the file, we meet the client, we speak with him knowing that the study of this file will take a few months, explains Me Alexandre Martin on BFMTV. The main part of this file, in the coming weeks, will reside in the analyzes that the experts will make of this passage to the act. In the immediate future it is time for meditation, it is not up to me to go into too much detail.

Be guided by “the interest of the client”

Lawyers are subject to professional secrecy. “What happens between my client and myself must remain between my client and me so I will not be able to betray this trust at any time or at least this secret to which I am ethically bound”, recalled on BFMTV on October 17 last Me Alexandre Silva, Dahbia B.’s lawyer, indicted for the rape and murder of Lola, this 12-year-old Parisian schoolgirl.

“The lawyer respects the secrecy of the investigation and the instruction in criminal matters, by refraining from communicating, except for the exercise of the rights of the defense, information extracted from the file”, also specifies the rules of procedure. national lawyer’s profession.

“I consider that each media release by the lawyer is guided by the interest of our client, believes with Me Gabriel Dumenil, criminal lawyer. We are never at the initiative of a communication, we rarely have an interest in the media coverage of their case.”

Gabriel Dumenil notably defends, alongside his partner Marc Bailly, Willy Bardon sentenced on appeal to 30 years’ criminal imprisonment for the rape, kidnapping and murder of Elodie Kulik in 2002. This is the Amiens lawyer Stéphane Daquo who had contacted his office at the time of the indictment of the former plumber in 2013. A cassation appeal by the defense was examined last October.

“In media files, there are things that can be programmed, continues Me Dumenil. At one point, in the case of Willy Bardon, it seemed important to us to let our client speak more freely when there was had a fantasy and a collective hysteria, in particular on the personality of Willy Bardon. We then let him speak and he was able to appear to express himself.

This configuration is rare, especially in criminal cases where the person charged is most of the time in pre-trial detention. Dahbia B., Romain C., Théo L., all are suspects in cases which have aroused the turmoil of public opinion in recent weeks.

In the Lola murder case, Me Alexandre Silva, seized because of criminal duty on the day of the suspect’s arrest, simply spoke at the end of his client’s police custody with “the concern to put an end to the rumours”, he explained on BFMTV.

“Extra Pressure”

When elements of the investigation are revealed in the media, the lawyer must “at best restore the distance” with “the only visible word, that of the civil party”. On January 30, 2018, after three months of questioning, Jonathann Daval was indicted for the murder of his wife Alexia. Me Randall Schwerdorffer accompanied him during these 48 hours of interrogation by the investigators. Faced with journalists, he announces his client’s confession, claiming that he strangled her “accidentally” and ensuring that he was “not a bad man”. Words that had raised controversy.

“We were emotional, we had just gone through a very intense moment, at that time we were still in police custody, we were still with him, remembers with Me Randall Schwerdorffer. When we We hit the wall, we just came to announce our confessions. But the wall has a lot of questions and even if we don’t want to answer them, we play the game. That’s where the time was too short. Today ‘today I would take two hours for myself, to pay attention to my communication.”

The lawyer, accustomed to dealing with media files from the height of his sixteen years of practice, now recognizes that he has not “gained the scale, not having understood the media enthusiasm” for this case. Me Schwerdorffer had been contacted by Jean-Marc Florand, who at the start of the case represented the entire family of Alexia Fouillot, including her husband, to find out if he was “interested” in defending Jonathann Daval. A frequent practice between lawyers when a difficulty arises for them to calmly represent a client.

“The media coverage does not change anything in normally media files, the Daval affair was abnormally mediatised”, estimates the lawyer.

For the criminal lawyer, “we must assume that criminal cases fascinate” and believes that “on all media cases, everything filters”. Media interventions are then more suffered than chosen. “We are obliged to participate in the media thing because the people who will judge are not hermetic, continues Mr. Schwerdorffer. It is not a choice, it is imposed on us. Either you leave space for the accusation, Either you start defending yourself.” The trial then begins as soon as a suspect is indicted.

“Media coverage will not change anything in the defense strategy, it simply adds additional pressure because it multiplies the possibility of making missteps, concludes Me Dumenil. In any case, communication is never to the advantage of the person charged.”

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