Congratulations, You're Now a Convicted Felon

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Congratulations, You're Now a Convicted Felon

Apr 19, 2019

Eddy Zawilla Picture

When I was walking towards the courtroom there was a group of people congregated amongst each other that seemed to be related in some fashion. They were talking between one another and it seemed as if there was some sort of discontent in the air when I passed through. When I entered the courtroom, Judge Leslie E. Brown was in the bathroom so I had arrived during a 10-minute break. Fortunately, the courtroom was empty besides two individuals sitting in the front row so I was able to avoid an awkward entry. I took advantage of the moment and spoke with the bailiff for a minute about quick details of the case. This was a criminal case regarding the victim, Mr. Hill and the defendant, Mr. Odell being charged with felonious assault; penal code 245A4 that occurred on September 15, 2017. Turned out, the congregation outside of the courtroom were friends and family of the defendant who was also in the group because he made bail. The two individuals I noticed in the front when I entered were the victim and his prosecutor.

When I had arrived, the court had already heard both sides of the case and was now going to announce the sentencing of the defendant. Prior to the sentencing, Mr. Hill wanted to read a victim impact statement in front of the court. The judge approved this request and Mr. Hill took the stand. Lo and behold, he is the founder/CEO of a 9-year strong non-profit organization, Young Warriors. This is a mentoring program for boys, ages 8-18, who have come up against an undeserved number of obstacles for a young life because of a non-existent positive male figures. He went on to state a laundry list of physical, emotional, financial, and relationship damages that resulted from the defendant's attack on him the night of September 15th. His head injuries resulted in him being in a coma for over 1 month, a severe TBI that left him losing 20% of his prior brain usage, and optic nerve damage that caused permanent blindness in his right eye. Other injuries sustained from the attack were broken ribs, broken jaw, and chronic fatigue. Ultimately, Mr. Hill spent over 2 months in the hospital, was in deep depression that left him suicidal for several months after the attack, and was unable to drive for 6 months.

After Mr. Hill spoke, the judge asked if the defendant would like to address the courtroom. The defendant's attorney quickly interrupted and stated, "I have advised the defendant not to make a statement, but he will not listen to my recommendation. Therefore, I would like to request withdrawal as his attorney if he makes a statement." The judge denied this request and the defendant gave his statement in attempts to humanize himself although the verdict had already been made. Mr. Odell stated "I must live with this decision, but I do not want this to define me as a person."

The defendant was found guilty on all charges and was sentenced to 2 years in state prison with an additional 5 years of probation. Congratulations Mr. Odell, you're now a convicted felon.

I am majoring in Integrated Marketing & Communication (IMC) with a minor in advertising. With that in mind, I will incorporate principles of my major into a way in which could have been used to improve the trial process witnessed on the side of the defendant. There are arguably 6 steps utilized in the IMC planning process: know your target audience, situational analysis, marketing/communication objective, budget, strategy/tactics, and evaluation. Step 1, knowing your target audience means that you know who you are trying to speak to and should appeal to that individual or group as best as possible. In this case, that target audience would simply be Judge Brown. If Mr. Odell were to use the VALS scale for consumers he would be able to identify what type of individual Judge Brown is and from there continue on to the next 5 steps. Step 2, create a situational analysis that figures out what your internal strengths and weaknesses are while also discovering the opportunities and threats of externals. With this trial, an internal strength for Mr. Odell could be his previously clean record while an internal weakness could be lingering anger issues. An external opportunity could have been finding a hole in the case to prove him innocence and the external threat was being found guilty and serving time. Step 3, the objective for Mr. Odell would ideally be to be found innocent or at least a reduction in the potential max sentencing to result in a shorter time served. Step 4, Determining the budget would fall in line with deciding whether paying for an expensive representative or a cheaper lawyer would make much of a difference in defending his case. Step 5, the strategy based on the objective would be to find the best lawyer possible within budget in order to increase chances of winning. The tactics of this would be the lawyer's different approaches to proving his defendant innocent to the charges held against him. Step 6, the evaluation and measurement step would deem whether this trial was a success for Mr. Odell or not and how to better approach it in the future. Of course, we now know from an evaluation standpoint that this was not a successful campaign in representing Mr. Odell as a law-abiding citizen. From a measurable standpoint, Mr. Odell did not receive the max punishment allowed so therefore was not a total failure in the realm of marketing. Regardless, he is now a felon at a state prison so he will have plenty of time to study the 6 steps of the IMC planning process to better his chances in future endeavors.

Eddy Zawilla, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Spring 2019 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to a court case he observed at the Los Angeles Airport Courthouse.

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