The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed Michael Skakel’s murder conviction. Years ago, this would have been huge, but memories fade. The murder occurred in 1975. Skakel was convicted in 2002. His conviction was vacated in 2013, and reinstated in 2016. Now it’s been reversed again and remanded for a new trial. The basis was ineffective assistance of counsel.
Almost no one gets a reversal based on Strickland, as the test is essentially impossible to meet. Skakel did.
Mickey Sherman is a handsome guy with one of the most magnificent smiles ever. For a while, his smiling face was everywhere. He was a media darling, available on a moment’s notice for every cable new show. He knew which green rooms had the good food and which served tap water. He was, for a brief and shining moment, the media’s “It” lawyer. Heady times to be Mickey Sherman.
Then he lost Skakel. But that wasn’t the end of the undoing of Mickey Sherman.
It’s not that Mickey wasn’t a good guy, or a good lawyer. He was both. But the spotlight went to his head. He loved it too much, and there are some who believe that Mickey’s failure to effectively represent Skakel was a by-product of his being too available for the cameras, which took up too much of his time and focus to do the hard work of effectively representing his client.
There is a recurring theme of unwarranted celebrity, where people get elevated to the top of the mountain and then become the target of those who want to tear them down. It’s one thing if you can sing or dance, as talent justifies the attention a celebrity receives. But Mickey didn’t become a darling because he had magic feet or a silver tongue.
At the moment, there’s a media darling representing a porn actress whose claim to fame is sex with a president, taking $130 grand and then reneging on her deal. And her lawyer is adored at the moment. He, too, is a good looking guy, and there isn’t a thing he can say that doesn’t make some folks swoon.
Will he get his own TV show or will he be destroyed in the aftermath? Or will he merely be forgotten when the mob moves on to the next most important thing that ever happened?
Young lawyers wish for the day when they become a household name, see their names and faces on the tube and have people rush up to them in restaurants for their autograph. For most of us, the joy lasts a few hours, quickly followed by the realization that it’s not merely a burden, but a minefield where the chances of your getting out with your life intact are slim.
I feel sorry for Mickey Sherman, even though Skakel’s reversal is far more important than the end of Mickey’s reputation. But he flew too high. He should have known better. He should have realized that lawyers aren’t celebrities. He should have spent his time representing his client instead of going on cable TV shows. Learn from Mickey.