Tag Archive: The Defenders


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

The Defenders is a new series on CBS about two defense attorneys in Las Vegas, Nick Morelli (Jim Belushi) and Pete Kaczmarek (Jerry O-Connell). In the most recent episode, “Whitten v Fenlee,” airing Wednesday, November 17, 2010, Pete defends a well-known blogger, Aaron Ayles. Ayles’ blog, The Truth Hurts More, exposed how a famous illusionist in Las Vegas, Collin Pettigrew, performed the final act in his magic show. Pettigrew sues Ayles for violation of the Nevada Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The court subpoenas Ayles for the name of the source who revealed Pettigrew’s secret, so Ayles comes to Pete for help.

Nevada’s Journalism Shield Law, NRS 49.275 does not apply to internet media by its text.

NRS 49.275 News media. No reporter, former reporter or editorial employee of any newspaper, periodical or press association or employee of any radio or television station may be required to disclose any published or unpublished information obtained or prepared by such person in such person’s professional capacity in gathering, receiving or processing information for communication to the public, or the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceedings, trial or investigation:
1. Before any court, grand jury, coroner’s inquest, jury or any officer thereof.
2. Before the Legislature or any committee thereof.
3. Before any department, agency or commission of the State.
4. Before any local governing body or committee thereof, or any officer of a local government.
(Added to NRS by 1971, 786; A 1975, 502)

First, Pete files a motion to quash the subpoena and argues that the journalism protection provided by NRS 49.275 should be extended to bloggers. Pete tries to convince the Judge by asserting that bloggers are now granted  White House press credentials, and also receive major media awards for their work. The Judge denies the motion to quash the subpoena, stating that while he is sympathetic to the intent of the law, he is bound by the text of the statute, which clearly does not extend to internet media.

Pete then seeks out other magicians in Las Vegas to find out if Pettigrew’s illusion is truly original. The magicians tell him that almost all magic tricks are borrowed and modified. However, they claim that Pettigrew’s final act is original, because no one knows of an antecedent trick.

Feeling defeated, Pete tries to get Ayles to reveal his source, but Ayles is determined to improve the journalistic credibility of bloggers, and refuses to give up his source. Then Ayles’ source comes forward on his own accord. A magic shop owner and magic historian, Reuben Charters (Penn Jillette), agrees to testify on Ayles’ behalf.

At trial, Charters reveals that Pettigrew was once his student. Pettigrew bought an extremely rare book from Charters that contained the secret to an exceptional illusion, Pettigrew’s final act. Charters’ revelation showed that there was no violation of the Nevada Uniform Trade Secrets Act, because there was no trade secret to begin with. Pettigrew’s illusion was just a modified derivation of another brilliant magician’s illusion. The case is dismissed on these grounds, as Charters tells the Judge that Pettigrew had no secret of his own, but was “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

The Simplest Answer Is Not Always the Right One

In the most recent episode of The Defenders, the main characters defend a client charged with attempted murder, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, extortion with use of deadly weapon, and kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon.  The episode titled “Nevada v. Rodgers” first aired on October 27, 2010.

The elements of the crime were explained by the defense attorney played by Jim Belushi.  The defendant was the driver of a vehicle and remained in that vehicle while the events of the crime occurred inside of a bar.  Two men entered a bar and demanded repayment of an illegal gambling loan from another man.  In the course of events, a gun was drawn.  Two off-duty police officers were present in the bar and believed they were witnessing a robbery.  The officers reacted by drawing their firearms and identifying themselves as police officers.  The guns were fired and one police officer was killed while another was injured.  One of the suspects in the restaurant was also killed in the firefight.  The man in the car was arrested. The defense argues that the defendant was simply driving the two men and was unaware of their intentions and cannot be responsible for the ensuing gunfire.

During summation, both the District Attorney and the defense counsel promote their cases.  The District Attorney tries to explain a principle in which the simplest explanation is the most likely explanation and therefore the defendant should be found guilty.  To counter this, the defense explains that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The burden of proof rests on the prosecution in a criminal case because of the presumption of innocence of a defendant.  This presumption of innocence has its root in British common law.  The concept behind the presumption of evidence is that the accuser must prove guilt rather than forcing a party to defend his innocence.  It is the prosecution’s burden to prove the guilt of the defendant such that the reasonable man would not have doubt about the defendant’s guilt.




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