Over the weekend, I saw some stories on the internet about Matthew Cordle. Last week, he posted a Youtube confession to driving drunk and killing Vincent Canzani.
If you read the headline, you will know that I am not impressed. Here’s why:
1. Starting off wearing my “lawyer’s hat,” I would never advise a client to confess to anything, at least not until a plea deal was reached or was imminent. Why would anyone give up whatever leverage he or she may have, especially when that person is facing a decade or more in prison?
2. If someone is going to confess, the proper way to do so is in court or in a police station. It is a private act, not a public one. Don’t make a slickly produced video that uses camera tricks, music and editing for dramatic emphasis. Don’t put it up on social media.
3. Taking off the “lawyer hat” I am still bothered by this video. The focus of a confession should be remorse, not self-congratulation. I agree with the victim’s daughter, who is enraged that the video appears to be making Cordle the hero of this story for not going along with “high-powered attorneys” who told him to “lie” to “beat the case.”
A confession is supposed to be where you admit that you did something wrong. This video is all about Cordle’s willingness to publicly admit what he did; not about the actual admission itself.
If Cordle wanted to tell people not to drink and drive, he should have found a more appropriate time and place to do so. This timing seems to me like a pathetic attempt to put himself in a better light prior to being charged and sentenced.
And, once again putting on my lawyer’s hat, I don’t think that most judges or prosecutors would be particularly impressed by this type of social media attention-getting that tries to pass itself off as a confession. When it comes to sentencing, Cordle’s decision to glorify himself may backfire.
4. “High-powered” lawyers told you to lie? Really? They were willing to violate their Codes of Professional Conduct and risk forfeiting their law license just for you? Baloney. This is an attempt to shift blame and make Cordle the hero and lawyers the villains.
5. Besides which, it is not clear that Cordle did anything particularly brave. According to news accounts, the police were getting ready to charge him anyway, so it doesn’t seem like he is admitting to something that he would otherwise have gotten away with.