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A quick look at the law and the media

Yesterday I needed to stop in to what is commonly known as Room A. This is the arraignment courtroom located inside the Hamilton County Justice Center. As I was on my way in, I saw representatives from every television station. I also think I spotted an Enquirer reporter. They were there for a defendant named Britney Roll Mayes. More importantly, they were there for the little girl who she is accused of killing: Avery Lee Hobbs. The girl was her daughter. Mayes had previously lost custody of the girl, been incarcerated for child endangering.

The big news of the morning was the fact that Mayes is now seven months pregnant with another child.

I used to work in local news at WKRC-TV, Channel 12. I spoke briefly to one of my favorite local news photographers about the case. News moves quicker than ever. We could only speak briefly because all the channels needed to post to social media about the revelation that the defendant was pregnant. They had to do this quickly - because local news is all about being first and fast.

The allegations in this case are atrocious. They involve family dynamics, violence, in all likelihood, poverty, and public outrage against a system that by all accounts so far, completely failed a little girl. This failure appears to have contributed to her death.

As a criminal defense lawyer, one of the questions we are often asked is how can we defend people like the defendant in this case. The media plays its part in answering this. When criminal defense lawyers defend people like this, we are often vilified. When we defend people believed to be innocent, such as the work of the Ohio Innocence Project, we are praised as defenders of justice.

Here is the thing. We don't have a choice who we defend. We have an oath not only to the Constitution, but to an oath to the profession that says we must vehemently defend our clients. Whoever they are.

Bradley Fox is representing Mayes. He is a private lawyer appointed by the office of the Public Defender. This means that she couldn't afford a lawyer and he was appointed to her. I don't know him personally, but he has a good reputation.

As this case moves forward, I don't suspect that the media will slow its coverage. It is clearly of public interest. It is an important case.

I hope that everyone who follows this case on TV or in the newspaper or online can use this case an opportunity to learn about our justice system. It certainly isn't a perfect system, but it is what we have. The more people know about it, the better our city and our society will be.

Technically, this blog is an advertisement. By reading this, you haven't created an attorney client relationship and nothing I say here should be taken as legal advice. I'm just a lawyer who used to be in media so I started writing about what I do now. My firm can be found at www.laursenlucas.com.

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