Vandenburg verdict: Is it too soon to mention legal malpractice?

clock - go home drunk clockIs it too soon to talk about legal malpractice?

Am referring to defense debacle in the Nashville rape case.  The case starred Vanderbilt football player and sex crime facilitator, Brandon Vandenburg; who coached his teammates, including the also convicted, Cory Batey, to sexually attack Brandon’s date.  A woman who was unconscious at the time.

Yes.  You read that correctly.

I ask having worked for a police department, then decades with plaintiffs and defense attorneys as my clients which explains why my very first thought upon hearing opening statements, was –

‘Wow!  Sure hope those retainer agreements included the appellate process!’

Vandenburg - All defense attorneys plus Vandenburg and Batey

Vandenburg defense attorneys Albert Perez, Fletcher Long, Worrick Robinson

Vandenburg - Defense attorney Fletcher Long Vandenburg - Defense attorney Albert Perez Vandenburg - Defense attorney Worrick Robinson

Knowing what good lawyering looks like, (and hey there pretty blonde defense attorney; it doesn’t look anything like chewing gum in the courtroom, especially during court) part of me watched the trial the way one watches a continuing train wreck.  It was horrifying, yet there was no turning away.

Separate from deciding to base a legal defense on the indefensible, “It’s alcohol” and “It’s the culture” the Nashville defense team, accompanied by the California tag-a-long, presented a case that in football terms, didn’t take the field.

Another problem – and one the prosecutors missed, is the defense didn’t offer that the Defendants quit drinking.  That would have been a tremendous opportunity to show contrition.  But as noted earlier, prosecutors didn’t ask.

The kicker came during closing arguments when defense counsel advised jurors to,

“use your common sense.”

How is that remark not legal malpractice?

Which may explain why after the verdict was read it was reported Brandon asked,

What happened?”

Clearly, Brandon had no clue.

Part of me wonders what Brandon thought about during the victim’s testimony.  Did it escape his notice the victim was a textbook example how to respond?  Did he not notice the victim was so good that Worrick Robinson, who was clearly treading dangerously close to appearing combative, suddenly and visibly realize he was treading too close to asking one question too many, and end his questioning?  Did Brandon’s parents not realize the woman was awesome? 🙂

So what was the defense “team” thinking?

Attorneys had before them Brandon Vandenburg; the facilitator of many crimes, as well as post-crime-crimes, including a fast trip to California to commit, more crimes!  Yet with all that, the entire defense team decided they’d go with with “Alcohol made me do it.”  And, “It’s the culture.”

As Jeff Foxworthy might say,

 “Here’s your sign.”

Still, Vandenburg and Batey deserved good legal representation.

By way of background and totally by luck as a child deciding what I’d do for a living; I had the great good fortune to accidentally parachute into John Flynn’s criminal defense firm, the best defense firm in the country.  Vandenburg - John Flynn - Ernest MirandaThat was about a decade after John argued the Miranda case before the Supreme Court.  Yeah.  That Miranda.  Now Ernest Miranda was a kidnap rapist scumbag – for sure.  But he was a kidnap rapist scumbag who deserved a good attorney because, this is America and that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Luckily, with John Frank and John Flynn, the scumbag eventually got two.  (John was so good the joke between the secretaries around the office was, “If you hired John, you were probably guilty”)  So how to defend the indefensible?  As John did before the Supreme Court.  With humility.  I saw no evidence of humility in the defense.  What I saw was “devil alcohol” posturing by a lame defense.

Which caused me to wonder why case even got to trial in the first place.  Why didn’t defense attorneys do everything in their power to explain to the parents that if ever there existed an occasion to “throw one’s self on the mercy of the Court and beg for mercy” this case was it?  Especially with video and audio – with Brandon laughing;  followed by the trip to California to attempt to facilitate yet another cover-up.  Seriously.  What were they thinking?!

In fairness, maybe they did exactly that; and the Vandenburgs blew it off.  That would explain a lot.

What defense would I have suggested?  Well something credible.  For example.

Your honor, my client is significantly mentally ill” followed by at least four doctors swearing it was true, including test results.   Maybe cite other examples, to verify. Again, maybe they did, but given the egos involved, one can understand why it wouldn’t have been palatable to the Vandenburgs.  At least, then.

However, as they say – everything happens for a reason.  Personally, I’m happy the Vandenburgs didn’t hire the same counsel responsible for defending Robert Durst through the years.  Lots of dead people are in old Robert’s wake.  He’s a rich guy so creepy his family is afraid of him.  So many unexplained dead people in Robert’s orbit that HOB is doing a special on him next month; and yet, the dude is out on the streets as a free walking man.

My preference is the victim returns to pursuing her goals in life.  Media will pursue her, wanting to interview her for their needs, not hers.  However, I commend the City of Nashville for making this brave woman feel safe enough to testify.  I commend The Tennessean for their excellent coverage.  I commend Channel Five’s Nick Beres for announcing on-air in a no-nonsense tone to anyone who called who wanted to blame the victim,

Don’t bother calling, you’re not getting on the air.”

I called both detectives to thank them for their service.

And oddly enough, I am grateful the defense.  As Justice works in curious ways, it was very helpful defense attorneys were to a one, tone-deaf to reality.


About bonnie russell

It's not about’s always about people.
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25 Responses to Vandenburg verdict: Is it too soon to mention legal malpractice?

  1. KT says:

    Brandons father is a sick man.
    I should know!
    In was in his home for two month’s as a personal assistant..I witnessed way too much!! I also dealt with sexually harassment everyday from his father who I have know from the 80’s.
    I saw a big change in his mentality..
    Rod is very abusive.He has no respect for woman.He also assaulted me.
    I did not bring any charges fearing Brandon would not receive help from his father if I put him in jail.I did report him to protect myself.
    I feel for all the kids.Rod is a very abusive man.His reputation is bad.
    And i know if Brandon had not been exposed to his fathers beheavior as he was growing up this would have never happen.
    3 boys and a girl and they have all suffered.
    I hope Brandon gets medical help.And I pray for all of them.
    And for the young woman..
    As for the other boys..They new better..
    I will not except the alcohol bullshit.
    But say mental help is what most of them need..


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  3. says:

    Anyone else hear that this was Worrick Robinson’s FIRST jury trial?


    • Don’t think so, but what does it matter when the “old hands” put in a malpractice kind of defense? I have never seen a better example of an entire group of attorneys, quite this tone-deaf. Whew!


  4. Moms Hugs says:

    Robinson’s strategy was simply to ask for mercy of the court, so to speak.
    Long/Perez’s strategy was simply to ask the jury to suspend disbelief in the unbelievable.
    They had already used up every pre-trial delay & pressure trick in their respective bags.


  5. Njpjm says:

    With respect to the idea of either Batey or BV taking a plea, what do you think they were offered ? I will guess no less than the 15 year minimum , hard time . The DA would likely demand that . They probably would not agree to anything close to that , if they would agree to jail time all. BV said in his interview (very lamely ) “I am innocent . I came here to get a great education. ” I guess he was saying that “they” did this to me . You are correct that the defense put on no defense . And there was no way to excuse the behavior involved . So it seems to me that the only legal strategy was to go to trial and hope for jury nullification without even putting on a defense , which seems asinine to me .


    • Beats me. Based on my experience working with attorneys, there was no defense. None.


      • Njpjm says:

        The strategy was :
        Enter frequent objections , try to blame not the victim but the DA and police. Drag the trial out as long as possible without calling witnesses . Set the stage for claims of prosecutorial overreaching in order to either influence the judge to sentence at the lowest end of the range or to have the sentence reduced later to the minimum . No real belief that the defendants would be acquitted , despite what the defendants themselves had deluded themselves into believing .


      • Brittney says:

        So what defense would you have proposed since you are such a guru😂


      • Well Brittney, I did. Guess you didn’t click the links. See my response to another. I repeated what I’d been saying all along.


  6. Moms Hugs says:

    Lond stayed in character as the ‘awe, shucks’ country lawyer played to the hilt & beyond. I was waiting for him to really slip up by assuming the judge was just a country bumpkin, too. Long played “bad lawyer” to Robinson’s “good lawyer” routinely, which did nothing but expose their desperation in trying to mount an adequate defense given the DA’s evidence.


  7. Eric says:

    Once during the trial Long hollered “Hey Judge!” That is NO way to address any judge and Long should have been held in contempt.


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  12. Moms Hugs says:

    I also had a good laugh when he ‘borrowed’ that phrase from the defense. Thurman & Norman had showed great respect for the jurors’ intelligence throughout the trial & that was the ‘cherry’ on top.

    I laughed when Fletcher Long got Miles Finley to show his arrogant attitude on the stand. Miles couldn’t help himself – TOLD Fletcher to calm down. Now who does that in open court? Possibly he shares the same arrogant attitude that caused Brandon Vandenburg to be benched by the coach for the rest of the football season after 4 games. So what exactly did BV do to deserve that? Also, where is Miles now & is he playing football for some college now? Hope you’re able to post that.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dorothy Rothchild says:

    Can you expand your thought on why asking the jury to use their common sense constitutes malpractice. I’m intrigued.

    Great comment, btw, about asking whether any of the accused have sworn off alcohol since this all occurred. That’s not something I had thought about before but a very fitting question.


    • I hope this experience explains it.

      I was once in trial with my boss, who was representing a very nice woman who had suffered a “closed-head” brain injury from a car accident.
      Closed-head brain injuries are very difficult for jurors to wrap their heads around because while victims of closed-head traumatic brain injuries suffer many problems, they look perfectly fine.

      Although all the witnesses to the accident supported our client’s position the accident was the fault of the Defendant; we were a little nervous about the attorney for the defense, in part due to the fact her reputation was that of a bi-polar pit-bull.

      Also, her key witness was an Accident Reconstruction specialist who had authored many books on the subject of fault. He was the “star” of the trial.

      At trial, my guy went through a long line of questions for the accident reconstruction specialist, and true to form, the specialist explained all our witnesses to a one, were simply incorrect. Then my boss asked one qustion near the end his examination, that included a mention the accident re-constructionist had in one of his books, a position that supported our position, which he was now for this case, disavowing.

      (This is why most experts are called “Defense whores” However, juries often buy what someone in a suit sounding professional, says, no matter how illogical. That’s just the way it is.)

      Apparently my guy’s question about that rattled the accident re-constructionist. My boss had a couple questions left. So twenty minutes in on the stand, when my boss asked,

      “So between the statements in your book that support my client’s statements, and your statements now, under the same circumstances, who should the jury believe given the police reports and witnesses?”

      I will never forget the answer.

      The accident re-constructionist said,

      “Well, I guess you have to go with the witnesses.”

      And I picked up my pencil and began scribbling. 🙂

      My boss went on questioning him for another ten minutes, mostly bland stuff, then we broke for lunch.

      But as soon as we were in the hall and out-of-earshot of all the defense people, I grabbed my boss’s arm and almost yelling, said,

      “Did you hear what he said, did you hear what he said!?”

      My boss looked puzzled. Turns out, he hadn’t. My boss had gotten so involved in the questioning, he missed that the Defense Expert had ultimately after twenty minutes saying our witnesses were wrong, backed Our witnesses.

      So when I told him what the Defense Expert said, my boss laughed and said, “I’ll get it transcribed and use it in the close.”

      And he did.

      And we won.

      So after the Vandenburg defense team opted for their no-defense defense of “it’s alcohol and promiscuity” – took it one step further for the prosecution by suggesting jurors should “use their common sense.”

      I later heard the Prosecution, just like my boss had many years ago, quoted the defense in their close.

      And that’s why I laughed. 🙂


  14. - says:

    Bonnie, is it? You are CRAZY. it is fine to have a true crime blog (many of us enjoy reading about this stuff) but the fact that you would argue with teenagers and kids in their early twenties (and so accusatory and rude) over social media makes all your readers doubt you. Nuts. These are young adults who understandably are shocked that someone they knew and loved is going to prison for potentially life. Instead of focusing on the trial, you’ve let yourself go nutty, regress to a teenage mentality, ad focus on them, making all your postings up for question. Get help.


    • Thanks! Your so-called “points” actually made me laugh right out loud.

      While Brandon’s ex-friends want everyone to know they think Brandon is a scumbag,

      Many are still friends with Miles Finley.

      Miles Finley’s first reaction was to call the unconscious woman a name. Which if you think about it, takes creepy to a whole new level.

      Miles Finley’s second suggestion was to gang-bang an unconscious women.

      But Miles Finley’s first actions were to protect Brandon Vandenburg.

      Last, any further input from you will be sent to the trash. However, I will keep a copy to use if I feel like writing another piece on Miles Finley and his good friends.


    • Eric says:

      You know ALL of Bonnie’s readers to say ALL disagree with her? I doubt you do.


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  16. newprude says:

    Now there’s drama. Seems one of the jurors was a rape victim and the defense is asking for a mistrial. Doesn’t bother me. They could be tried 100x the evidence won’t change so neither should the verdict.


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