Prominent New York Criminal Defense Attorney says Self-defense Argument is Burress' Best Hope

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"If Burress was my client," Brill said, "I would immediately discuss the self-defense matter with the DA and make them see that my client felt his life was in danger and that carrying a gun was his best and only option to protect his person and property. I would drive home the fact that Burress did not possess the gun with the intention of using it unlawfully."

Athletes have real fears based on real cases

Despite Mayor Bloomberg's political grandstanding and calls for him to get the maximum sentence, a self-inflicted bullet hole in his leg, an illegal gun possession charge, his arrogant, knuckleheaded behavior on and off the field, and a publicity-conscious District Attorney looking to set him up as the poster-boy for illegal hand gun possession in hopes of warding off others who would conceal an illegal weapon, the most important argument Plaxico Burress' attorney must make in his defense is that his client was carrying the gun for self-defense, and believed he was at risk of serious injury or death, the very real dangers a star professional athlete faces every day on the streets of New York, according to Steve Brill, a prominent New York criminal and illegal hand gun possession defense attorney.

"If Burress was my client," Brill said, "I would immediately discuss the self-defense matter with the DA and make them see that my client felt his life was in danger and that carrying a gun was his best and only option to protect his person and property. I would drive home the fact that Burress did not possess the gun with the intention of using it unlawfully."

Brill emphasized he would make sure that the DA is aware of Richard Collier, a player for the Jacksonville Jaguars who was shot 14 times, lost his leg and was paralyzed as a result of the shooting. And of Sean Taylor, a player for the Washington Redskins, who was sleeping when 3 individuals broke into his home and shot and killed him. And of Darrent Williams, a player for the Denver Broncos, who was shot and killed while he was sitting inside his limousine.

"Athletes have real fears based on real cases," Brill said. "The DA must be convinced that Burress had these fears and possessed a gun to protect himself from dangerous people who target famous people, like NFL football players."

To have any credibility with the DA, and probably later with a judge and jury if his case goes to trial, Burress' public image could also work against him and might need some polishing.

"He needs to say and do things that will make him look remorseful and willing to do what he can to make it right," Brill said. "Whenever he's in public I would have him surrounded by his family as much as possible. And while it is unconventional to have a client make a statement, in this case he cannot deny he had a gun, so I would have him make as many statements as possible about his fear of injury and remorse for causing this spectacle.

"Remember," he emphasized, "intending to use a weapon for self-defense, when there exists a risk of serious injury or death, is not an unlawful intention. Burress could still be convicted of possession of a weapon, but that is a less serious offense with less jail time."

As for trial tactics, Brill has some advice for Ben Brafman, Plaxico Burress' defense attorney:
There is no question there will be a tendency for the DA to treat Burress disproportionately than other non-celebrity defendants. It should be Brafman's goal to persuade the DA from caving in to outside pressure. He needs to hammer home the fact that it is unfair and contrary to the mission of the DA's office to make an example out of Burress.

Have Burress maintain as low a profile a possible so as not to tarnish his public image any further.

Start right now preparing his client on how to best convey his mental state when he was in that nightclub. There are some cases where the criminal defense attorney knows he's not putting his client on the stand. Then there are some cases where the attorney doesn't know whether, or not, their client should testify. Then there are cases like this one involving Burress, where he must testify in order give his defense lawyer a much better chance at winning.

Brill also warns Brafman to be aware of the impact of the media on judges and juries in high-profile criminal cases like this one.

"In the fight between the media and protecting your client, the media always wins," Brill explained. "Instead of fighting the frenzy, I would join it by using the media to show my client in the best possible light.

"It will be a tough balance for Brafman," Brill added. "On the one hand he needs to justify his client's possession of the weapon as a necessity due to his celebrity. On the other hand, when it comes time for punishment, he wants the DA to treat Burress like any other defendant. That's a hard sell."

As for Mayor Bloomberg, Brill said he thinks it was inappropriate for the Mayor to say what he said about Burress. "Cleary," Brill said, "the Mayor used the Burress matter to make a statement that would further him politically. The Mayor should respect the judicial process and let it work. By him getting involved, it may put pressure on the DA's office, which in turn is unfair to Burress. By the Mayor making his one-sided statements, he has made himself a factor in influencing an impartial jury. In any case that is wrong."

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