Mike Tyson was reportedly "angry and disappointed" last Friday after an Indiana court of appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold his March 1992 rape conviction. Tyson, who has served 17 months of a six-year prison sentence, would do well to consider his lawyers' role in last week's decision.
The judges addressed several issues of the sort that frequently lead to reversal at the appellate level. In a key ruling they held that the trial judge had acted properly in excluding three defense witnesses. The higher court ruled that Tyson's lawyers, headed by Vincent Fuller, were tardy in their disclosure of the witnesses. Moreover, judges V. Sue Shields and Jonathan Robertson observed in their majority opinion that in three other instances Tyson's attorneys blew his right to appeal questionable rulings by the judge when they failed to take necessary legal steps during the trial.
Further, Tyson's lawyer on the appeal, Alan Dershowitz, who told the three appellate judges at his first appearance before them in March 1992 that he had "never seen a case that had so many winnable issues," proceeded to alienate the court at every turn, arguing his case in the press and on countless talk shows and writing a cover story on the appeal for Penthouse entitled "The Rape of Mike Tyson." Two lawyers close to the case say that they believe two of the appellate judges were offended by Dershowitz's tactics. A third lawyer, Robert Hammerle, who represented Virginia Foster, a former limousine driver who testified in the case, says of Dershowitz, "His whole approach to this has played poorly in the entire legal community in Indiana."
Now Dershowitz is promising further appeals. He has until Aug. 26 to file a petition to take the case to the Indiana Supreme Court. Should the court decide to hear the appeal, Dershowitz will have to convince at least three out of four justices that Tyson deserves a retrial.
Show of Concern
Understandably, pro sports has come to seem a callous place these days (consider Vince Coleman). Thus, it was reassuring last week to hear how the hockey community responded in a time of crisis.
In mid-July, doctors discovered that 14-year-old Simon Fischler, the son of longtime hockey columnist, author and television commentator Stan Fischler, was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a condition that had reduced his heart's function to 10% of normal. He needed a transplant to save his life.
News of Simon's condition spread quickly through the hockey world. More than 40 players, coaches and front-office people, including superstars Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull, wrote or called. Alexei Kasatonov of the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim gave Simon one of his Soviet Olympic team jerseys. New York Ranger coach Mike Keenan, whom the elder Fischler has often criticized, was among the first to visit Simon at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Gifts poured in from all parts of North America.
Late last Thursday, with Simon about to be admitted to the hospital's intensive-care unit, a donor was found. Doctors performed the transplant early Friday and later that day said that Simon could return home as early as next week. NHL officials are considering setting up a fund to help defray his ongoing medical costs, which may exceed $20,000 a year.