Anne Bremner: Life Inside The Law
January 1, 2024
Attorney Anne Bremner has been involved in several high-profile cases, including those involving Mary Kay LeTourneau, Ann Rule, and Amanda Knox. She is also an author and media personality, commenting on numerous court cases, including those involving Casey Anthony, Michael Jackson, and Scott Peterson. Here, she discusses how she became friends with LeTourneau, her strategy in defending Knox and how she parlayed her courtroom success into a career as a sought-after TV commentator. Her new book, Justice in the Age of Judgment, explores how social media and the digital age influence due process.
Rob Smith: Hello, Seattle. Welcome to the Seattle Magazine podcast. My name is Rob Smith. I’m the editor of Seattle Magazine and Seattle Business Magazine, and I am joined by my colleague, our Director of Opportunities, Linda Lowry. Hi, Linda.
Linda Lowry: Hi, it’s so good to be here with you, Rob, and of course, our very special guest.
Rob Smith: Ann Bremner is our guest today, and you probably know who she is. And if you think you don’t, you still probably do. Ann’s an attorney and a TV personality who has been involved in several high-profile cases, including the case involving Vili Fualaau, a student of teacher Mary Kay Letourneau, when she successfully defended the Des Moines Police Department in a suit filed by Vulao’s family.
And a case that generated, I would say, even more publicity, the Amanda Knox case. Most recently, Anne successfully defended three Tacoma police officers in a case involving the death of Manny Ellis. And we have some news to talk about on that as well. That’s right. The officers have just resigned a couple of days ago.
Anne is also a frequent commentator. For numerous high-profile cases that generated massive headlines at the time, including those involving Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife, Lacey, the state of California’s criminal trial against Michael Jackson, who was charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy, and Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of murdering her young daughter. Anne Bremner, we’re honored to have you here. Thank you so much for taking time.
Anne Bremner: Well, it’s such an honor and a pleasure to be on with you. Thanks for having me with both of you. Thank you.
Rob Smith: Well, first off, Anne, um, how does a girl who was born in a small town in Oklahoma end up at Stanford and then the Seattle University School of Law?
Anne Bremner: Well, um, I was born in Oklahoma. My dad was on his residency and internship when he had about all four of us, but we’re from Washington State since about 1880. And the family started in Linden, of all places. And my dad was raised on a farm. And, you know, the boys in my family both applied to Stanford, didn’t get in.
I applied and didn’t tell my parents. And until I got the acceptance, and then they said, they said, only the boys didn’t get in? And then he had a cocktail party that night, and I told all their friends, and I went to Stanford after that. But it was a wonderful experience, and I grew up in Olympia, Washington.
Rob Smith: Ok, so was Stanford a little bit of a culture shock? What was that like?
Anne Bremner: Yeah, it was. It was, well, the biggest shock was the weather. To go from here, and then to have sun all the time, it was like, you can’t stand it, right? It’s every day, it’s too nice. It was a culture shock, but it was a great experience.
I met a lot of great people. And I still go back, and I’ve been involved with the university. Just a wonderful experience at Stanford.
Rob Smith: Was the plan always to make it back to Seattle?
Anne Bremner: Yes. Well, not really. I mean, I was going to stay until my dad kind of bribed me to come back. And then I came back and went to law school.
And it was a great decision. He takes credit for it. It did bring me back, law school, NSU, another great school.
Linda Lowry: Well, we’re so glad you came back from sunny Northern California back to our beautiful weather here in Seattle.
Anne Bremner: Yes, especially now, right, Linda?
Linda Lowry: Yeah, exactly. Um, but first of all, I just want to congratulate you and your brother, Dr. Doug Bremner, who co-wrote your current book, Justice in the Age of Judgment, and congratulate you both on being number one in new releases in media and law on Amazon.
Anne Bremner: Thank you. My brother, I think I’ve said before, didn’t speak right away as a child and it took him a number of years and he said it’s because he had nothing to say. And since that time, he’s of course, been a professor at Yale Medical School and at Emory, and he’s a prolific writer, and so I was really lucky that he chose to help me on my journey with respect to media and justice, and he’s really responsible for a lot of the writing. Just an excellent writer.
Linda Lowry: Well, I have to say, your new book is definitely a page turner, and, like, I just could not put it down. It’s such an amazing, fast read. I just wanted to know, why did you write Justice in the Age of Judgment?
Anne Bremner: Well, thank you for your kind words. It was kind of a work in progress. It was going to be a book about Amanda Knox only. And then it turned into looking at a lot of cases I’ve covered as an analyst and also cases I’ve handled myself, because it seemed the theme from Amanda’s case, which was the first international social media, Internet murder case, that what I’d learned from dealing with her case really was something that that permeated all of those kinds of cases.
Like this is a whole new world with the media and social media and the Internet when you’re dealing with trials. It’s not like back in the day where it would just be a newspaper covering a case or a column here or there. These cases are everywhere. So that’s what prompted me. And so the book, as you know, starts with Amanda. It’s interspersed with Amanda, and it really ends with Amanda as the theme of the book, but dealing with other cases too, with those similar themes.
Confirmation bias, you know, the understanding of what happens in the criminal justice system. How these cases can be influenced, how juries can be influenced, and how cases can go awry.
Rob Smith: Did you always want to be an attorney?
Anne Bremner: No, I wanted to be an actress, so I’m close, right? I took a lot of drama, and I actually wanted to be a writer. But I’m really glad I became a lawyer. It’s something that combines those things. And I’ve always kind of Like the underdog in cases like Amanda Knox was in Italy, so it’s been something that’s allowed me to help some people along the way, which is really gratifying.
Rob Smith: Well, since we’re talking about Amanda Knox, was there ever a time in that case where you thought This is not going well.
Anne Bremner: Oh, yeah.
Rob Smith: You were extremely concerned, and she would have been extremely concerned as well?
Anne Bremner: Yes, well, before I even got involved, I thought that she had no chance. And I, it’s in the book, I’d gone on a radio show and said that she had no chance. that she confessed that she didn’t have an alibi, that the circumstantial evidence implicated her and that also that there was physical evidence, etcetera, and that she acted so inappropriately, they said, remember cartwheels at the station? Kissing her boyfriend, all that kind of thing. So, it looked very bad. Then once I became involved, I saw all the tapes. I saw all the evidence. I released all that evidence to NBC. I felt like Daniel Ellsberg releasing the Pentagon Papers, right? It kind of went all around the world in terms of becoming viral because the crime scene was so poorly handled.
I thought that when she was convicted the first time, I remember there were three trials, triple jeopardy, which you’d never have here. She was tried after being acquitted, but the first trial when she was convicted, when they didn’t allow independent experts were. There was exposure by these jurors, quote unquote jurors, to publicity, etcetera, and the bells were ringing at midnight when the convictions came in and were announced, and people were yelling out that she was a killer, etcetera.
I really felt like it was over. We had a group that helped her called the Friends of Amanda Knox, and one of our members always said she’s going to be an old woman out in the fields after she gets out of prison, if she ever gets out of prison, in Italy.
Linda Lowry: Oh, my goodness. Well, you have Amanda Knox on the cover of your book, and she was recently back in the news. Can you provide, like, any feedback on what is going on with her case in Italy now?
Anne Bremner: Well, she posted, “I’m going to be tried in Italy again, but this time it’s good.” And I thought, this is the only time that is good, because she actually has been granted another hearing, another trial on a defamation conviction that she had.
And in Italy, defamation is criminal, libel. And she wanted, she wanted to be cleared on that. She’s been cleared, of course, on the murder of Meredith Kircher, and she wanted to be cleared on everything. So that’s pending.
Rob Smith: So, let’s get into your career a little bit, how you got into this, and then I want to talk about how you became such a noted commentator on TV.
You began your career as a deputy prosecuting attorney with King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. What about that part of the law interested you?
Anne Bremner: I really liked working with, with victims. I was in the Special Assault Unit. The first special assault unit was here in Seattle, right before I got in that office, which is a long time ago.
I started in 83, and I think that unit started like in 78. And I enjoyed that aspect of working with people and victims, but I also, I like trials. I had clerked for a judge, and he had a Trans Am with flames down the side. He’s an older guy, but he was pretty hip and interesting, and he’d been a prosecutor.
So, he really gave me my interest in actual trials. And I saw a lot of trials. And by the time I became a prosecutor, I was pretty comfortable trying cases. And I felt that that’s something I could do, you know, to really assist victims, homicide cases, sexual assault cases. You name it, I had a serial rape case, the Harbor View rape case when I was pretty young, and it was a very big case.
And I, I do remember that with all the publicity in that case, I learned dealing with the media at a pretty early age, as they say, because that case had so much coverage.
Rob Smith: Well, so then you went into private practice, right? And then you represented law enforcement and judges in both civil and criminal cases. So that’s a little bit different than how you started your career.
Anne Bremner: It is but dealing with the police was a nice transition for me because it was similar to being a prosecutor, dealing with police reports, you’re dealing with search and seizure issues, you know constitutional issues. So that was a nice pivot, and I was getting at a license plate that said four cops, you know what I mean?
So, I thought, well, that’s probably gonna be good or bad, you know, especially these days, probably bad. But I really, I really look up to police officers. On my mom’s side, my grandfather, great grandfather was a police officer in Seattle on horseback in front of the corner of Frederick and Nelson. So, you know, kind of close to my heart. And, um, and it’s something I enjoyed representing police officers, which I’ve done to this day.
Rob Smith: And in the Manny Ellis case that you just finished, it’s still in the news. It’s still very controversial, obviously. The Tacoma police officers just resigned and got, what? $500,000 a piece
Anne Bremner: That’s right.
Rob Smith: for resigning. I also heard that there’s a group calling for a federal civil rights investigation into these officers. So, I guess for lack of a better way to put it, how does that make you feel?
Anne Bremner: First, I was really pleased that the jurors saw the case the way we saw it and acquitted these officers.
It was a long, it was like a three-and-a-half-month trial. And a very difficult case. And the jurors did a wonderful job of evaluating the evidence and doing the right thing. And I’m very grateful to the jury. How does it make me feel now? They, could they still be in Tacoma? I guess. My client, Officer Rankin, they were all cleared.
He especially was cleared by the chief. So cleared by jury, exonerated by the chief in an internal investigation. And then the question is, does he go back out on the street? He agreed to a $500,000 payout. And his overtime, his time, etcetera, is covered for the whole time they were on paid leave. And he also gets his retirement.
He didn’t waive any claims. He could still go back after the city. It wasn’t really an exchange. It was a one-time payment. Will he go after them? No. Where does he go next? He’s evaluating that. He’s a wonderful guy. He’s an immigrant from Singapore. He came here at age 13. English is his second language. He served in the Army Rangers with distinction.
He decided to become a police officer and serve when 9/11 happened. He was actually 13, watching that on television. So, I hope in the future, he’ll land where he wants to, and I’m glad to have been a part of his exoneration, but it’s been controversial, and I don’t think it should be, but that leads me into kind of my thesis about media and trials.
You know, what, what really was the deuce in the trial versus what we saw in social media and other media accounts?
Linda Lowry: Yeah, I was gonna ask this is like another part of a case, how social media and media can potentially sway a jury. Can you share some facts on how the media and social media can sway a jury that is on trial?
Anne Bremner: This is a great example. This was a case where even the state’s medical experts couldn’t really agree on what the cause of death was. And that’s the charge, is manslaughter and murder that these officers caused the death, and if they can’t show that, they can’t. But not only that, all this thing about hog tie and beating, etcetera, that was so wrong in terms of how it was put out there.
I did. I said, were you there? Yeah, you know, but, but it’s just, it is understandable, journalists don’t have law degrees. Sometimes people can’t be there the whole time. Um, and you also have, going into these cases, confirmation bias. I would single out a couple of people that I take issue with, that are reporters in this case.
The rest were fabulous. I mean, fabulous. So, but some of the things that are out there just aren’t exactly right, you know, for the evidence.
Rob Smith: How do you vet these cases? I mean, you, you use the word controversy, you’ve had numerous controversial cases. How do you determine what, I mean, what’s that process look like?
Anne Bremner: Wow. I mean, I, I just don’t think, I think I’m a sucker for people, right? Like kind of the sad story and like, I’m not very good at vetting to answer your question and maybe that’s why I’ve had the controversial, controversial cases, but you know, it’s been, I practiced 40 years now and I look back on my career and I’m proud of what I’ve done and, and I wouldn’t change taking any of those cases, although at the time probably wasn’t the smartest idea.
Rob Smith: Well, you probably believe though, in the innocence of your clients,
Anne Bremner: I do.
Rob Smith: that are representing that. So how do you get to that point?
Anne Bremner: You know, there’s true believers. There’s Erik Hoffer, that philosopher, that he wrote a book called The True Believer.
And I kind of think I’m one of those. And that if someone comes in and they tell me, you know, they’ve been wronged or this officer in this case, and I didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t cause the death. Then then if it If the evidence shows to me that’s true, my investigation, then I’ll help them. Amanda Knox was a perfect example of that.
Once I looked at those, all of those crime scene tapes of them erasing footprints of, dragging hair through the scene, crashing through windows by mistake, all of the forensic investigators, and I said, that’s the crime scene with Amanda Knox, I was in. I thought this is a real injustice because this, this crime scene, as the experts later found, was compromised, contaminated, and now all of that evidence, a knife and a broad clasp were inadmissible. Wow. That’s how she was cleared. Remember? I mean, that those, that’s how it happened.
Linda Lowry: I read it on social media.
Anne Bremner: Yeah, there you go. So you got it, right.
Linda Lowry: Yeah. No, you recently just won a very significant case. Uh, with Susan Cox Powell versus DSHS. How has this win affected our judicial system?
Anne Bremner: That case, as you know, was the, Susan went missing in Utah. She’s never been found. And her children went with the suspected murderer, Josh Powell, here in Washington State. The kids lived in a house of horrors with pornography and a noose hanging from the ceiling and all kinds of horribles.
The state took those kids away for that reason when they executed a search warrant at his house. And then they gave the kids back after there were, I don’t know, 69 red flags we had, including that he was the murderer, including that the kids were witnesses. They were drawing pictures of their mom in the trunk of a car, they were saying, Mommy’s in a mine, you know, things like that.
And in spite of all that, and that they’d given the kids to my clients, the grandparents. They gave those kids back, Josh killed them. He set them on fire and killed them with a hatchet in his house. The jury awarded us $115 million dollars after a very long trial.
And how is that case important? It was the highest verdict against the state, uh, in the state at that time. I think it still is. And it is very meaningful that says our institutions, especially institutions that protect kids, have to protect kids. Their focus was reunification of families at any cost.
And we said, no, it’s got to be protecting the children, absolutely protecting the children. That’s why it’s important. And our jury, we have seen them. We’ve gotten together with them in the last few months. They wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves, and they were, and they’ve stayed on it in terms of wanting to be involved, in terms of any kind of philanthropy, any kind of legislation, etcetera, so that it was a very meaningful case. It was so meaningful.
Linda Lowry: Mm hmm. No, I mean, it’s just, you know, reading about the outcome and the, and the news and, and then of course, um, you know, going to CrimeCon and listening to the jurors that were there. They came to CrimeCon to talk about the importance of the case. And like you mentioned, how, how they stayed on, because it was, it happened during the pandemic, right?
Anne Bremner: It did. We started in January, February, we recessed March 17th, remember, that was right when the schools were closing. And then we, we were on hiatus until late August. And the jurors came back, all, every juror came back. It’s amazing.
Rob Smith: So, I understand that you and Mary Kay Letourneau actually became friends.
Anne Bremner: We did.
Rob Smith: This seems like a really odd friendship.
Anne Bremner: I know, I know.
Rob Smith: I was the editor of a community newspaper at the time, and we were among the first to report what was happening. Because we had access to the, we saw the police report. At the Des Moines Police Department. Mm hmm. So, I, I know a little bit about Mary Kay Letourneau but I, you and she became friends.
Anne Bremner: I was defending the police, again, and the school district and the police were sued by Villi and his mom, remember? Saying you didn’t protect, you know, Villi from Mary. I got to know Mary because she wanted to help me. She didn’t want it to be a crime story, she wanted it to be a love story. So, she didn’t like the case. I know it’s kind of strange. I guess lawsuits make strange bedfellows, right? I mean she; I would go see her in prison and she gave me a lot of information and then she didn’t testify for either side for anybody. And then I stayed in touch with her, after the trial and that was an 11-and-a-half-week trial.
I, I have so many texts on my phone from Mary Letourneau, like her cats, you know, we both love cats, you know, things like that. And I’m, I liked her. It’s like there’s a Hollywood producer said, if you squint your eyes, it all makes sense. But very strange case.
Rob Smith: So, you found her to be very likable.
Anne Bremner: I did. I, and she had like bipolar disorder. I mean, she was diagnosed histrionic personality disorder. I mean, she had issues. But speaking of Stanford, both of her brothers went there. Her dad was a congressman. She, she’s from my sorority. She’s a fellow Pi. Pi Beta Phi, but she, she definitely had something that went awry that had her involved with Villi, but they stuck it out when she got out of prison.
She was in for seven years, and they raised two beautiful girls, and they were together up until shortly before she passed at age 58.
Rob Smith: Yeah, that’s just fascinating to me that you became friends with her. So how do you think history is going to remember her?
Anne Bremner: I don’t know if we were chatting earlier about that new movie, May-December, with Natalie Portman. It’s just complicated. I mean, that movie was up for a number of awards but hasn’t gotten any yet. I think it’s probably because it is complicated and disturbing. And the story in that movie is very close, in my opinion, to the Mary Kay Letourneau story, including his mixed feelings and her saying that he was the one that led the relationship.
I mean, that is what she said. And that’s what the movie had. I think she’ll always be remembered as complicated. I mean she ended up with him, and she, she didn’t have other victims. It’s a very strange case. Usually with pedophilia, you see more, a number of different victims, but you didn’t see that with Mary Letourneau. I always thought I should have done, like, a thesis on comparative analysis of Michael Jackson and Mary Kay Letourneau in terms of arrested development, you know what I mean?
Because they were very similar that way. Very odd. But she was very childlike. And Michael Jackson, when I covered his trial for CNN for six months, he was too.
Rob Smith: How did you get to be such a well-known and respected commentator on TV?
Anne Bremner: Well, thank you for saying that. I don’t know if I’m well known or respected, but I do it anyway. I think that, when I was trying the Mary, Mary Kay Letourneau case, it was covered by Court TV. And so, they said, why don’t you, when you’re in New York, why don’t you come see us and go on Court TV? So, I did go to New York. I was there with one of my friends who had some depositions. I went and got a new outfit. I was so nervous. I like walked into a car. I mean, right in the middle of Manhattan, just bang. They put me on the air. And after that, there were, MSNBC called, CNN, places like that. And that’s how it started, just doing Court TV. But we went back to the business center at the hotel with that VCR, right, and watched the whole thing, right?
Linda Lowry: Speaking of Court TV, um, what are your thoughts on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case that was streaming live on Court TV?
Anne Bremner: It was like a train wreck. You couldn’t, you know, look away, but you had to watch it. It was really entertaining, but it was really sad. And it had huge viewership. I mean, the stats for Court TV and the Law and Crime Network were through the roof, especially on the day of the verdicts.
So, and then, of course, TikTok, when you look at social media, they love that trial. That was a TikTok trial, right?
Linda Lowry: I mean, I don’t watch Court TV, but I was watching that. It was so, it was like a movie. I remember Rob talking about it too, how he was just like, couldn’t get enough of it. And yeah, it was just like, you just couldn’t believe it.
Well, plus, because Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Especially Johnny Depp, he has such a big presence, right. And the world really. And then seeing him and on trial and it was just, it was like. What do you call a reality court TV show?
Rob Smith: Well, I don’t know what it says about me, Linda, but it was just so salacious and ugly.
Anne Bremner: Exactly right. It was.
Rob Smith: Yeah. It was just somehow grossly, like I couldn’t look away.
Anne Bremner: I know. Yeah. You can, you can look away. I have, I had a neighbor who was only 30 years old and he would text me all the time, you know, like, what does this mean? Like, he watched it the whole time, you know, and I’m like, I don’t know, it was like a great pastime, but some of the, some of the things that came out of it, like, what, what was, what was the pint of, um, half a pint, mega pint, mega pint of wine, you know, some of the sayings that came out of that trial, the mega pint of wine, and that he was so It’s funny when he would, like, talk to that lawyer and call him a Rottenburger, and that was his name, right? Mr. Rottenburger.
And sometimes I do Court TV with Benjamin Chu, one of his lawyers, and I always feel like a, like a total, you know, fangirl when I’m on with him, but, um, it was just, it was fascinating and he didn’t want it to end, and so then it did become, like, a series that you can go back and watch it, I think, on Netflix.
Linda Lowry: Yeah, they did a series on it. That’s really where I watched. Is it how it how it unfolded and so forth when I was like, Oh, my goodness, because they kind of condensed it because I didn’t have the time to sit, you know, and watch the trial live. Just couldn’t do that. But speaking of television, you know, in your book, Justice in the Age of Judgment, you talk about the O. J. Simpson case as Trial of the Century, and I do remember watching that, you know, live, when he was like in L. A. with his, his white SUV, then going on trial, um, but what was your involvement in that case, and why did you write about this case in your book?
Anne Bremner: I still think it, I still think it was the crime, or the Trial of the Century. You can call different trials the Trial of the Century du jour, you know, in a lot of ways. Okay. But I was the OJ girl, you know, on Como TV with Kathi Goertzen and, um, Dan Lewis. And I would sit in Steve Poole’s chair that the, uh, the weather man who just passed away is so sad.
He was such an icon. And of course, Kathi’s passed away as well, but I would, he would get out of his chair and do the, after doing the weather, then I’d sit in his chair and do an update on OJ and then he’d come back. So that, that was my, that was my role. It was, it was. updating about the O. J. Simpson case here in Seattle.
Rob Smith: I mean, you’re, you’re talking with knowledge about trials that you’re not intimately involved with. How do you prepare for that?
Anne Bremner: You have to spend a lot of time, I kind of live on, and I’m excused to watch the Johnny Depp trial for that reason, but I kind of live on what’s happening in Reuters and New York Times and different outlets on.
On all these cases that are pending so that I can talk about them and tell intelligently. Um, for example, Alec Baldwin being re-indicted today, like to be able to talk about him, if I don’t know everything, like all the parameters of an issue, I don’t want to go on and talk about it because you know, I get so insecure. I’ll be like, oh no, what if they asked me something I don’t know the answer to, right? So, I need to make sure that I, that I’m prepared.
Rob Smith: Well, I’m sure that’s happened. Yeah. And you read as journalists and attorneys do, you redirect the question that you can’t answer.
Anne Bremner: Right, right. I mean, yeah, I mean, and some of the time when I was covering the Michael Jackson case, they wouldn’t have somebody on the CBS camera like at six in the morning or four in the morning, I would just walk over and stand over at that one and talk and I didn’t know what they’re going to ask me. Right. I mean, it wasn’t my normal place, but that’s a good example. I, I did kind of have to improvise, improvise a little bit on national television.
Rob Smith: Well, has there ever been an outcome of a trial that you were common commenting on that surprised you?
Anne Bremner: Yeah, Casey Anthony. Big time. We were, another analyst and I were doing MSNBC, and we were standing on top of a satellite truck, and it was super-hot out and we’re waiting for the verdict. They were actually throwing popsicles up at us, you know, thankfully.
And so, as the verdict was coming in, we were on live. And I tried not to like to make a huge face when it came back that she was found not guilty. But I mean, you couldn’t knock me over with a feather and that was just unbelievable. That she was acquitted with, of killing, killing her child. They had a lot of evidence again, including searching for chloroform, remember, including the cadaver dogs indicating the trunk of the car, the child’s missing for a month and she’s with Zanny the nanny. I ‘m going to go on and on, but that was a stunner. You know?
Linda Lowry: Yeah, I mean with that being said, I mean, in your opinion can anybody truly get a fair trial now with social media being a major influencer in our legal systems? I
Anne Bremner: think it’s really hard. I think it’s really, really hard in a big case. I think Amber Heard was just vilified. I mean, right? There’s no way she was gonna come out. No matter what, she wasn’t going to come out on top in that case. And, and that’s a great example of, of when it’s that big of a case, and, and it’s basically portrayed the way it was and tried the way it was, that there’s no way that she was going to come out okay.
I mean, there’s safeguards, you know, that judges can put on gag orders. They did it. They did it in the Idaho 4 case, you know, with Kober. I mean, that’s an example where you need that. All the parties agree to it. Now, I know as journalists, you don’t want that, but that has to happen in these really high-profile cases that could get reversed on pretrial publicity like the Maxwell, Shepard versus Maxwell, the case of the fugitive, Dr. Shepard was convicted of killing his wife and it got reversed by the Supreme Court because of just salacious pretrial publicity, saying he was having an affair, saying that he was cheating on his wife. She was pregnant at the time. And so that’s an example of where it can go too far.
Rob Smith: So, in something near and dear to both Linda and my hearts, you co-founded a group to force the Seattle Times and the PI to continue publishing separate newspapers. You also defended true crime author Ann Rule in a defamation case against Seattle Weekly. Were you surprised you lost that case?
Anne Bremner: Very, but we won on appeal. But by the time that the, that her case was reinstated, I can’t remember if she had just passed. It was right around that time. It got dismissed on the, under the anti-slap statute that was found unconstitutional after that.
On the two-newspapers town effort, that was something that’s, um, Susan Painter asked me to, um, help. And she was a wonderful columnist, as you know, and the idea was that we would keep the joint operating agreement between the P. I. and the Times. And Phil Talmadge was my co-chair. He was a legislator and on the Supreme Court. And we, we did really well with that for a long time. We intervened in the litigation between the two newspapers to keep two newspapers, and we were granted intervener status. Everything went really well in the lawsuit, and I don’t know if you remember, I’m sure you do, when everything came through to keep two newspapers, Hearst decided to not publish the PI. And we couldn’t believe it.
I have that last, the last issue of the PI and it’s got everybody up in front of the globe and it says you’ve meant, um, you’ve meant the world to us.
Linda Lowry: Wow. Wow. Um, any future plans on writing a second book?
Anne Bremner: I’d love to. You guys could help me. You’re the experts.
Linda Lowry: We’d love to. We’d love to.
Anne Bremner: Because, you know, I, I love journalists. I love media. And I don’t, I don’t want to be critical at all in terms of what I talk about on these things. I’m just talking about in terms of working together and how things are changing that, that I can learn a lot from the media. Um, and obviously in the, in the Ellis case, I mean the controversies out there and if I was dealing with the media better, it probably wouldn’t be there. And so, it’s kind of a, you know, we’re all in this together and, and it’s important I think that the public is told and sees through you guys what’s happening in trials.
Rob Smith: Well, and yet at the same time, you’re also part of the media.
Anne Bremner: That’s right. And I, I feel like it’s, it’s so complicated what happens in some of these cases. The morality plays, you need to look at like Michael Jackson, is celebrity justice an oxymoron, you know, Scott Peterson.
But can you trust the boy next door, the guy next door, and he turns out to be a killer of his wife. They are that kind of simplistic renditions that I look at in terms of these cases, but they’re very complicated and things are changed in the law, through the law. Um, you know, Brown versus Board of Education, and then Roe v. Wade, which of course got reversed. But it’s just, the law is so important, and it’s so important that, that, that people understand it through journalism. And so, I, I just find it all fascinating, and I’m glad to be a part of it, but I’m a very imperfect part of it. Well,
Rob Smith: Well, what have you learned about the media by being part of the media, and how does that influence anything you might do as a lawyer?
Anne Bremner: I, guess I recognize my own bias going into things, and that I do have confirmation bias. I am conservative, you know, I don’t wanna say that too loudly in Seattle. Um, and I’m not, no, you really don’t. Yeah, I’m not that, I’m not that conservative. I mean, I’m a, I’m a police-lawyer, I’d put it that way. You know, and, and I, and I’ve handled, I also represented Sheriff Troyer last year.
I mean, so, so I guess just, it’s just fascinating to me to see how all of it works. You know, when I was trying, when I was doing the Jackson case, there were no cameras in the courtroom. So, what was being put out was, was literally what people, you know, Perceived. Linda Deutsch was there from, from the AP week.
You know, she was there with Maureen Orth. We called them the gavel-to-gavel girls, you know, because they were really, you know, the grand dams of, of that trial in terms of journalism. And, and so I would look at what they wrote. And then I’d look at what somebody maybe that from the local paper wrote. And there’s just, there’s just different perspectives.
It’s just human nature and experience, you know, level, etcetera, that would dictate, you know, somebody’s understanding of the proceedings. So, I understand it better now. I’m glad that I’ve been in this part of it too.
Rob Smith: You know, what you said about being conservative when it comes to police, as a rookie journalist, I covered cops and courts.
Anne Bremner: Oh, you did?
Rob Smith: Well, which is what they give a lot of rookie journalists because, it’s kind of spoon fed. You’re not uncovering anything. You’re just following things. But I grew to respect police officers much more than I ever would have otherwise. Yeah. You know, I’ve been on ride-alongs and, an embedded reporter on busts, drug busts and prostitution busts. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m not sure that the general public has an idea, a good idea of what a lot of police officers have to go through on a day-to-day basis.
Anne Bremner: Yeah, absolutely. That’s so true. And when you look at, you know, the, like the Manny Ellis case, you know, these officers and what they were confronted with that night and, and, and what they did, you know, it’s just, the jurors got it, you know, they heard everything, all the detail and everything else, but you’re right, the appreciation. And the fear that I’ve had on ride alongs.
Rob Smith: Well, I was also part of a media day, um, put us through a day of police training. Only time I’ve ever shot a gun. And, uh, but you know, they, they put us through these training videos where you have this much, this long to decide whether you’re going to pull that gun and fire.
Anne Bremner: Shoot, don’t shoot. Yeah. And then you kill somebody and you’re like, oh, I shouldn’t have, right? That person wasn’t a threat. Yeah. It, it, I, I have a lot of appreciation for him and I, I don’t, you know, all the police cases I’ve done over the years, you know, with the protests and, and everything else. And I always think, you know, like I say to some of the lawyers I work with, when there’s a death case with one of my officers, you can’t look at that family and say that person because they resisted or pulled a gun the cop that they deserve the death penalty, right? But they got killed because of self-defense or use of force etc., and we always have to understand that there’s this whole other side, you know, of a family that’s grieving and that’s rightfully so and then we just got to have that empathy and understanding and putting forth these cases.
Linda Lowry:, You know, notable career, these cases that, that you’re involved in are very complicated and they can, you know, I can imagine they can take a toll on yourself mentally, physically and so forth. What, what about retirement? Is that something in, in the near future?
Anne Bremner: No, I’d love to do that. I was just thinking like the other longest trial I had was the police canine case where we defended the police dogs, you know, against the ACLU and the dogs came into court and everything. But, and the, the jurors were really great at the end.
They said the plaintiffs were barking up the wrong tree. They really did say that, but, but yeah, I just, you know, I look back and I’m like, yeah. Maybe it’s time to kind of pivot and do something different. Maybe do another book. I’d like to do some philanthropy. I’d like to do more mentoring. I like to help younger women lawyers, girls in high school.
Even I get, I get letters from like second graders, they’ll be like, will you please write back? I’m like, of course I will, you know, but so to do some of that, more of that, because I think I’ve done, I’m blessed to have had a great career and great clients and in great cases. And, and maybe it’s time to kind of pivot.
Rob Smith: Linda, I’m glad you asked that question because you’ve racked up a lot of accolades over your career, top five famous criminal defense lawyers, top celebrity lawyers, super lawyers. Are those important to you and your profession? and what’s the most prestigious in your mind?
Anne Bremner: They are, but the most prestigious in my mind is the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 2000, like 20 years ago, I gave the inductee response for all the new inductees nationally. And that was like my biggest honor, to be chosen to represent my class. So, I had the luncheon with all of them. Our next meeting was going to be in Montreal, so I had them all get berets.
I got them all berets. And then I was, had to do a short speech at dinner, and everyone’s saying, don’t screw it up, this is a really big deal. You know what I mean? Like, this is the inductee response, and the guy last year was so I got up and I did the Mary Tyler Moore hat in the air, and I had like all the screens of her doing that, and when I did that, all of the inductees threw theirs, so you saw all these little hats going on. So that was kind of a, it was a big moment.
Rob Smith: So lawyers are rated somewhere around journalists in the list of least trusted professions. And you’re in both those professions. Mm hmm. So why, why are both lawyers and journalists, why do they have such negative reputations among people?
Anne Bremner: I think because both are in the cutting edge of so many things that are, um, in our society, a lot of the problematic things in our society and people want to blame journalists. They want to blame lawyers. You know, look at, well, you got to look at Donald Trump, how mad he gets at journalists, you know, and lawyers, you know, and judges, right? I mean, everybody’s going to use him as an example, right? Anybody who like doesn’t agree with him. Yeah. I mean, I kind of, I think that’s, that’s where it is, you know.
It is just it. I think that that’s a badge of honor, you know, for both professions because those are the jobs that we’re, you know, that we’re meant for. And, and then I think that’s the most important thing you can do for society as a journalist or as a lawyer.
Linda Lowry: Yeah. Well, any last comments or, um, advice that you like to leave with our listeners?
Anne Bremner: I love Seattle Magazine, and you guys have been wonderful. It’s really been an honor, and I just, I just want to say, you know, we live in one of the most beautiful places, you know, in the world, and we’re just so lucky to be here, and so it’s great to have a community like Seattle, you know, with representation through, through you, and um, you know, I’ve always wanted to be part of Seattle Magazine, so I’m thrilled today. An honor.
Rob Smith: Thank you so much, Ann Bremner. Thank you, Linda. I’m Rob Smith and thank you for tuning in to the Seattle Magazine podcast.
Jonathan Sposato: Thank you for listening to the Seattle Magazine podcast. You can always find us on seattlemag.com. Look for new episodes approximately every two weeks on our website. A special thank you to the entire Seattle Magazine staff and to podcast producer Nick Patry. Contact Lisa Lee at email@example.com for partnership opportunities.
Until next time, let’s keep celebrating Seattle.
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