LOS ANGELES: High-profile lawyer Harland Braun resigned as accused murderer Robert Blake's attorney last week, citing differing opinions between himself and the TV star on the handling of media relations.
The rift highlights the difficulty of managing press interest during celebrity trials.
Blake was charged with the slaying of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Blake pled not guilty, but is being held in jail until trial.
Against Braun's advice, last week Blake agreed to an on-camera interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer. Although authorities later denied access to the jail for the interview, Braun resigned over what he described to journalists as Blake's "emotional need to speak out."
Despite his opposition to the Sawyer interview, Braun has been very vocal with the press since Blake's arrest. Some legal analysts have even suggested he has gone too far in his efforts to paint Bakley as a con artist with many enemies. Braun has reportedly even allowed print reporters access to Blake in jail for informal interviews. But television is another matter.
"If you don't answer all the questions, you look guilty," said Braun in numerous outlets. "If they cut you off before you answer, you look guilty. If you do well, they say you're just an actor. It's a no-brainer."
That analysis is viewed as sound by crisis experts, who point out that videotaped statements can be harder to control than printed ones.
"If you say something to a print reporter and it comes back to haunt you, you have some wiggle room," said Sitrick & Co.'s Allan Mayer, head of the entertainment practice. "When you sit down in front of the camera, there is no wiggle room."
Braun will continue to act as Blake's lawyer until a judge approves his resignation and a replacement is found. But some crisis experts point out that public perception may be influenced by Braun's move.
"I think it hurts," said Rubenstein & Associates' Howard Rubenstein.
"You very rarely see a lawyer pulling out."
Braun did not return calls for comment.