Tags: Steve Malzberg Show | Mark OMara | Gerald Strebendt | ex-Marine sniper | Oregon | gag order

Attorney Puzzled by Secrecy in Ex-Marine's Shooting Case

By    |   Wednesday, 01 October 2014 03:17 PM

Criminal defense lawyer Mark O'Mara says he is mystified by an Oregon court's secrecy surrounding the case of a former Marine sniper and professional cage fighter charged in a fatal shooting.

Especially when the defendant — O'Mara's client — wants his case aired in public and publicized in the media.

"You would think that a client, a defendant . . . if they don't want anything closed, and they want the public involved . . . it's the defendant's right," O'Mara said Wednesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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O'Mara, who defended and helped earn the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, is helping represent Gerald Strebendt, 35, who shot dead David Crofut, 53, last January after a traffic accident in Springfield, Oregon.

Strebendt, nicknamed "the Finishing Machine" during his fighting career, says he fired at Crofut in self-defense after Crofut threatened his life. But a grand jury indicted him on a murder charge.

Lane County Circuit Judge Debra Vogt, who is overseeing the case, imposed a gag order preventing the prosecution or defense from talking about it. She also ordered some documents sealed, prompting the local Register-Guard newspaper of Eugene to appeal.

"What [Strebendt is] saying is, 'I want a public trial, I want to be able to look for witnesses, I want to be able to raise money if [I] want to,' and that's the real concern," O'Mara said.

"We respect the court's ruling. It's in place where it is, but in the generic sense, just talking about gag orders generically, they are only supposed to be used as the exception to the rule.

"The public has an absolute right to know, and quite honestly, it undermines the belief that people have, the trust that they're going to have in a system if they can't see it."

O'Mara said there are cases where a gag order is warranted, but not often. He emphasized that he must talk in generic terms to avoid breaking the gag order.

"Generically, in all cases, it's always a comparison or balancing act between the client's right to a fair trial and even the state's right to a fair trial and the First Amendment and the public's right to an open trial, an open proceeding that anyone can look at," he said.

"If in fact you have a case that is so publicized that it might affect the ability for a fair trial, I can see a gag order in a generic case. But, you know . . . we were able to pick a jury in the George Zimmerman case.

"If we can get a jury in that case even with no gag order in place, you have to wonder, is there any case out there that a gag order is appropriate for, the idea or the concept of fair trial over an open trial."

The offices of Arnold Law, which are involved in Strebendt's defense, said:

"[Strebendt] did not fight for this country to be subject to secret tribunals, and does not fear public scrutiny. The public and justice are best served when the sun shines on the courts and government processes."

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Criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara says he is mystified by a Oregon court's secrecy surrounding the case of a former Marine sniper and professional cage fighter charged in a fatal shooting.
Mark OMara, Gerald Strebendt, ex-Marine sniper, Oregon, gag order
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 03:17 PM
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