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How Public Interviews With Miramonte Students Could Affect the Case Against Mark Berndt

Screenshot/CBS LA
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The alleged victims of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, who is accused of feeding his semen to students on cookies and spoons while they were blindfolded, have been everywhere on both local and national media outlets.

Two students at Miramonte Elementary School went on Dr. Phil yesterday to talk about their experiences with Berndt. Previously, one student went on KTLA to tell her story. Obviously the case makes great TV, but some legal experts say that it could end up making a trial very difficult for both sides.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School who used to be a former prosecutor, told KPCC that these interviews are tainting the jury pool. Defense attorneys won't want to pick jurors who have already made up their minds after hearing these interviews, which are like testimony but not under oath and not subject to cross-examination. These interviews could also come back to bite prosecutors.

"Whenever a witness, a parent talks outside the courtroom, it ends up inside the courtroom," Levenson told KPCC. "People are more likely to say what's sensational because that's what sells to the camera."

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The sheriff's department lashed out at one attorney who claimed that one teacher at Miramonte actually helped Berndt carry out his alleged lewd acts. (That attorney fired back that the sheriff's department wasn't up to snuff for the job of investigating.)