Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


Actor Involved in Murder and Burglary

Posted on: November 17, 2008 at 11:11 a.m.

An accused low-level mob associate who was convicted earlier this year of killing an off-duty police officer during a botched burglary was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The co-defendant, a former "Sopranos" actor, goes on trial this week.
The murder was committed two years ago, but the lead defendant wasn't convicted of the violent crime until October. The two men were accused of braking into a Bronx apartment to steal prescription drugs after a night of drinking at a strip club. The off-duty officer cam to investigate and was shot in the heart. The off-duty officer fired back and wounded both men.
The actor, Lillo Brancato, was the star of Robert DeNiro's "A Bronx Tale" and has had many parts in movies since then. Over the years, many celebrities have faced various criminal charges and needed experienced violent crime defense attorneys. Criminal defense attorneys who work on high-profile violent crime trials, such as the OJ Simpson trial and the Scott Peterson murder, know the challenges of defending someone whose name is widely known.
In Los Angeles, violent crime defense attorneys regularly defend celebrities and well-known personalities in all manner of offenses, including DUI, theft, violent crime, domestic violence and drugs.
As Former Los Angeles Prosecutors, our firm specializes in aggressive Criminal Defense work in Southern California Courts - in the area of Violent Crimes. We promise that only the three firm partners work on your case, rather than young attorneys, contract lawyers, or case managers. Our law firm has been recognized as a Top 5% U.S. Law Firm based on peer reviews from other attorneys, judges, and prosecutors, in the area of legal ethics, professionalism, and judgment. We have more than 50 years experience in defending all criminal matters.

Tagged as: counterfeit goods pc 350, jury trial defense

Comments:

Whitney Hein-Unruh (Com Std 17 on December 2, 2008 at 4:29 p.m. wrote:

The need for experienced lawyers who are well-versed in criminal trials is one of the reasons that we see the same group of lawyers show up in most high-profile cases. From the Michael Jackson trial to the OJ Simpson trial to the Scott Peterson trial, Mark Geragos, Gloria Allred, etc. seemed to pop up everywhere. If they weren't defending the accused, they were commenting about the cases on television programs. The reason for the prevalence is the fact that their legal representation works. In class we talked about the current state of the jury trial system, making the point that, these days, legal representation seems to be more important and to make more of an impact on the trial than the evidence itself. The redundence of this small group of attorneys supports this fact. Defendants hire these attorneys because they have a proven track record of getting their clients acquitted.


Lauren Ransdell Com 174 on December 2, 2008 at 2:10 p.m. wrote:

I don't think that having to wait three years in order to get your day in court is so bad if you are convicted of murder. I'm sure that the celebrity wasn't spending that time in jail as they can afford to post bail. So his 'right' to a speedy trial is the last thing that I'm worried about when a police officer has lost his life. I understand the need to make sure trials are speedy, just in case the defendant is not guilty, but in a murder case, it might take longer for investigations to be done. I must agree with Pizzi on one point, and that is that we should be interested in the truth of the case. This case brings to mind the stigma that is usually involved in celebrity criminal cases. The public may tend to believe the suspects innocence simply because they feel like they know them, and feel that they would never do somthing terrible. If the actor is guilty, lets hope justice is actually served, whether or not he is a celebrity.


Jessica Basile: Comm 174 on December 2, 2008 at 3:03 a.m. wrote:

Many actors are often type-casted to specific roles depending on their look or demeanor. Although Lillo Brancato is not a high profile actor, like Robert DeNiro, he still represents the look for the American image of a mobster. The HBO series, the Sopranos, represented the gangster image through violence and aggressive behavior. This image seen through the media may produce an unfair judgment of the accused. Jurors may have a biased opinion of the actor because for his portrayal of violence on camera. Despite the evidence showing that Brancato was not carrying a gun at the time of the murder, the jury may only see him as a mobster. In this case, the celebrity factor may hinder his chances of being acquitted of all charges. The jury may also judge more harshly because Brancato is a public figure. They may use him to set an example to deter people from thinking that celebrities are not pushed because of their money and status in society.


Tatiana Vardanyan on November 30, 2008 at 9:50 p.m. wrote:

With regard to celebrity cases, how long does it take to select a panel of jurors? I can imagine that it would be tremendously difficult to find jurors who carry neither bias nor favortism for the client. In some cases such as the Jackson trial, some of the jurors were dismissed and I believe I read something about the case moving to a different location to avoid trial contamination. This apparently only happens in extreme conditions.


Christine Paik Comm 174 on November 22, 2008 at 4:23 a.m. wrote:

First off--right to a speedy trial? Has that right been rightly manifested in this trial? I highly doubt that anybody would consider two years to be 'speedy', particularly the people to whom the case is the most important--the defendants and the victim's family members. Not only that, but it will be interesting to see the verdict with the celebrity on trial, Lillo Brancato. Since his co-defendant was sentenced to life in prison without parole (which, second to the death penalty, is the harshest punishment available), the verdict which Mr. Brancato receives could be very telling about the current state of our criminal justice system. Though I am not clear on the background of the case (whether it is the lead defendant who actually fired the gun), the question could still be raised about whether the trial ends up favoring the celebrity. In this case, if Mr. Brancato is in fact not the one who fired the gun, it would make more sense for him not to be charged as much. However, in the uneducated public eye, a more favorable sentencing would seem biased based on the fact of his celebrity. Basically, this case goes to show that in the case of celebrities, much more skill and public relations control and in a sense, legal education, is required to give the impression of a well-running criminal justice system.


Sesilya Saraydarian on November 21, 2008 at 12:51 p.m. wrote:

As to Brittany's comment above: 'So much for the right to a speedy trial', these investigations take a long time due to evidence processing and the investigators not knowing the entire story. They have to do their best to figure out exactly what happens. On top of that, the trial procedures (with filing motions, etc) also take a long time. Those must be considered in any case before blaming our already backlogged system for not being 'speedy'. I think that in cases where the defendant is a celebrity, the jury might be a bit harsher in their sentencing and considerations. There may be jurors who believe that celebrities may get off easier on their crimes and may want the celebrity to get the same treatment as a non-celebrity. It's next to impossible to find an impartial jury for a celebrity case, and jury selection is extremely important. Before a celebrity trial even takes place, just as we have touched on during lecture, the celebrity may already have all the cards stacked in his/her favor due to his money and the ability to access the finest lawyers the Bar has to offer, just like OJ Simpson and his team of defense attorneys.


Nicole Forde on November 18, 2008 at 2:06 p.m. wrote:

This post brings me back to the discussions we had early on in the quarter concerning celebrities on trial. As a society, we value movie stars, professional athletes and so on as leaders and role models. I think this strongly rooted perception is what makes conviction (especially with an extreme sentence) difficult for a jury (representatives of society) to reach. Jurors won't want to go against public opinion for fear of being ridiculed. In a normal trial with a non-celebrity defendant, this would not be an issue. Jurors remain anonymous and go back to their normal lives once the trial ends. But with celebrity litigation, and all the media exposure that comes with it, the likelihood of a jurors' identity to be exposed increases significantly. Also, the opinion of a jury can be largely swayed by success and money. They might ponder the mentality that a celebrity defendant is too privileged to commit a violent or petty crime. Also, because our trial system is so strongly based on protocol, a celebrity's easy access to multiple resources will always strengthen their case. In the murder case above, the jury will have two different heart strings pulled: that of the celebrity and that of the murdered police officer (arguably one of the worst violent crimes.) Since the partner was already convicted of the murder, it may work in favor of Brancato since there already exists a perception of justice. In addition, Brancato likely has an established team of attorneys ready to rebuttal any fingers pointing his way.


Cho Yim on November 18, 2008 at 12:17 p.m. wrote:

In cases where the defendant is a celebrity, experience is definitely needed to handle the high profile case. If handled by inexperienced young lawyers, more room for mistake is opened because the media attention might get to their heads and make it harder to find a good fair jury.


Brittany Schoof Comm 174 on November 17, 2008 at 5:33 p.m. wrote:

It is amazing that it has taken 3 whole years for Brancato to get his day in court. So much for the right to a speedy trial. This is especially outrageous because Brancato was not carrying a gun at the time of the murder and his associate was the one to shoot the officer (as well as being convicted for doing so). The defense should be able to sweep this one under fairly easily, especially since Brancato's friend Armanto was just convicted of the murder of said officer. Armanto was the one carrying the gun, and Armanto was the one involved in the mafia. It seems that the defense can easily portray Brancato as a good guy who just has a drug problem and got involved with the wrong type of people. However, I do wonder if Brancato's acting profile might actually hurt him in trial. Being involved in several mafia films or tv shows very well might make the jury subconsciously biased against him. Ultimately though, whether Brancato is guilty or not, this delay of the process is ridiculous.









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