Edward Mallett, representing Echols, argued that Echols' trial attorneys, Val Price and Scott Davidson, were so involved in discussions with filmmakers before and during the trial that Echols' defense was compromised because the contract negotiations helped shape defense strategy.
Mallett discounted the defense attorneys' assertions that they enlisted the filmmakers to help finance the defense. He said the attorneys should have asked the court for money to hire appropriate experts and should have expected the state to pay for it.
Instead, Price and Davidson wanted to become famous, and movies made lawyers famous, Mallett said. "It was about money," he said. "It was about the consequences of making a movie." If the attorneys had not been worried about film deadlines, they would have asked for a continuance in Echols' trial since it began soon after Misskelley's trial, Mallett added.
David Raupp, a senior assistant attorney general, told the high court that testimony at a circuit court hearing on ineffectiveness of the attorneys showed that the contract benefited the defense. Not only did the defense get money, about $7,500, but it also got the benefit of a documentary record they could review as part of their strategy, he said.
Mallett also argued that Circuit Judge David Burnett should have issued a more detailed order denying Echols' request for a new trial based on the ineffectiveness of his lawyers. Burnett's order only tallied six pages despite eight days of testimony over several months and 1,400 pages of transcripts and other documents. "It's a very large and complicated record with many issues," Mallett said.
But Raupp noted that the case has been ongoing since 1993. To send the case back to Burnett to issue a more detailed order would do "gross injustice to the issue of finality," he said.