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Gregory Wright has spent the last decade as a death row inmate in Texas, as the sole perpetrator of a murder for which another man later was convicted. Or so say Wright’s wife and supporters on the newly launched Web site, www.freegregwright.com. Wright’s supporters recently joined the growing number of criminal defendants and convicts seeking public exposure of perceived injustices by posting their stories on the Internet � in this case with the aim of getting the Texas courts to take his appeals seriously. But criminal defendants and their supporters who use the Internet to advance their cases are causing at least one unintended effect: They’re making their own attorneys uncomfortable. Bruce Anton of Dallas criminal defense firm Sorrels, Udashen & Anton, who now represents Wright, said that he is philosophically against such Web sites. He believes that cases should be tried in court. But Anton said he cannot prohibit clients and their supporters from having Web sites � especially those on death row. “A Web site can be a two-edged sword,” Anton said. “On the plus side, publicity about a case can help bring in additional investigation funds and support outside the legal community, but it can be a problem when something posted on a Web site can be inferred to be an official statement from the defendant.” Anton’s ground rules for anyone intending to post information about a client’s case are that they use only the facts of the case accurately reported from the trial record, with nothing directly attributable to the defendant or his legal team, he said. “Some of the Web sites run a great risk of unintentionally harming the client down the road,” he said. Wright’s Web site claims that he was implicated in a murder for which he was convicted by another man later convicted of the same crime. Supporters say Wright has never had a fair chance to put the alleged procedural and constitutional flaws of his trial to an appeals court. Though prosecutors do not seem to be paying attention to these postings yet, defense attorneys worry that their clients and their supporters could do more harm than good by, for instance, posting confidential information not on the record. Lawyers often are unsettled at the thought of clients and well-meaning lay supporters, unsophisticated in the subtleties of criminal law practice, creating Web sites and blogs to post sensitive case-related information and creating their own theories of what happened and why. But lawyers also say that information generated on the Internet helps ensure the openness of the criminal justice process much in the same way as news media reporters covering cases � though without the news media’s standards for accuracy and reliability. Cynthia Hujar Orr, an associate at Goldstein, Goldstein and Hilley, a San Antonio-based criminal trial practice, called criminal defendants’ independent Web postings “a very dicey proposition.” “Laypeople are not as sensitive to how little it might take to waive the attorney-client privilege,” Orr said. “For instance, a comment like ‘I was acting on legal advice’ can raise that issue.” But she added that Web postings “also can bring resources-things genuinely helpful that we didn’t know about, as well as generate interest in a case.” In one case, Orr said that a civil litigator who had done a pro bono criminal case pointed out flaws in what Orr formerly had assumed to be well-grounded technical aspects of ballistics testing. “The Internet makes bad science, bad information, bad cops and bad prosecutors much more visible,” Orr said. “Shoddy science is discredited more quickly and shoddy careers are ended sooner.” Susan Reed, district attorney of Bexar County, Texas, which includes San Antonio, said that she had not given much thought to defendants’ stories on the Internet. Lawyers’ professional ethics prevent them from trying to influence their cases this way, and she generally would take defendants’ unsworn postings with a grain of salt. Joshua Dratel, a New York-based criminal defense lawyer, said that several of his clients have had Web postings but declined to discuss the specifics of cases that he said are ongoing. “The problem is control,” he said. “As a lawyer, you want to control the information that gets disseminated to the public, and of course there are always the issues of client confidentiality and privilege.” Strategically or tactically, it’s often not to the defendant’s advantage to divulge facts about the case that are better left for trial, he added. A client, or one of his or her family members or friends posting things on a Web site “impairs a lawyer’s ability to maintain a consistent and coherent message about what the case and the client are about,” Dratel said � nor has a lawyer any idea who actually is seeing that information. Barbara Thompson, spokeswoman for the New York County District Attorney’s Office, said she was not aware of defendants, their families or friends using the Internet to assist defendants’ cases in Manhattan. Peter Geier is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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