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SAN JOSE � News that legal pundit Gloria Allred has been retained to represent a potential witness in the Pamela Vitale murder case has some wondering whether the Los Angeles attorney is getting involved for the wrong reasons. In a move guaranteed to bring the case even more attention, Allred is reportedly providing pro bono legal representation to the girlfriend of 16-year-old murder suspect Scott Dyleski. According to an affidavit filed Tuesday, Dyleski went to the girl’s house “in order to have sex” hours after Vitale was killed on Oct. 15. Vitale, 52, is the wife of Oakland defense attorney Daniel Horowitz. Allred � best known for representing Scott Peterson’s girlfriend Amber Frey and for her frequent appearances on the cable talk shows circuit � has gained a reputation for grooming “celebrity witnesses.” Robert Weisberg, a professor with Stanford Law School who has been a critic of Allred since the Peterson case, said her involvement in the Vitale case “distorts” the facts of the trial and turns “the criminal justice system into something trashier than it is now.” Representing people who are not suspects and are not facing charges or accusations is “an abuse of legal advice,” Weisberg added. Richard Zitrin, a legal ethicist and partner with San Francisco’s Zitrin & Mastromonaco, also questions Allred’s motives for representing a witness in this case. “Lawyers have a duty to put their client’s best interest first,” Zitrin said. However, he added, “there are some people who think they are bigger than a case.” Allred declined to publicly comment on the case Thursday in light of a temporary gag order granted by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge David Flinn. The order bars anyone involved with the case � including Allred � from discussing it with the media. Flinn will hear arguments about the gag order Nov. 10, the day after Dyleski is scheduled to enter a plea. According to news reports, prosecutors in their request for a gag order expressed fears that Allred’s representation of the juvenile witness “could act as a lightning rod for the national broadcast media.” “The prosecutors want to muzzle her,” says James Hammer, a cable news legal analyst and former San Francisco prosecutor. “Gloria is in a class of her own. There is no one quite like her. � She throws a pretty good punch.” But Birgit Fladager, one of the prosecutors who worked on the Peterson case, said Allred did a good job helping Frey survive the media spotlight. “Amber was having a really hard time with the media,” said Fladager, who is running for Stanislaus County district attorney. “My initial thought was that she needs some help.” While there was a gag order in the Peter-son case, it didn’t apply to Allred, who frequently held news conferences throughout the months-long murder trial in Redwood City. Still, the whole idea of witness attorneys was “sort of a novel experience for us,” Fladager said, adding, however, that “it is happening more and more.” Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher points to the O.J. Simpson murder trial as a pivotal moment that changed the landscape of courtroom reporting. Today, “there is much more pressure” to comment on high-profile cases, especially on news shows, he said. Fletcher prosecuted Kenneth Fitzhugh, a Palo Alto resident convicted in 2001 of killing his wife. The trial judge had imposed a gag order, but the case was widely reported in newspapers and on TV. “People chase things all the time for their own advantage,” Fletcher said. “Why should this [case] be any different?” An Associated Press report was used in preparing this article.

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