Transcript of “Frozen in Time: A Riveting Behind-the-Scenes View of the Michael Jackson Cases”, Part 6. QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION
Here is the final installment of the series, with this post dedicated to the final question and answer session of the seminar.
Transcript of “Frozen in Time: A Riveting Behind-the-Scenes View of the Michael Jackson Cases”, Part 6
Seth Hufstedler: Well, that may give you some impression of what an effective defense counsel can do when arguing to a jury. Let’s turn to the jury selection now. A lot of people have mentioned it, and they very kindly passed it by as they did so that we could talk about it all at once. I think it’s a very important issue, something that as lawyers we can learn something about the attitudes involved. Judge Melville, would you like to say something further about that issue first?
Judge Rodney Melville: This is just some preliminary on the jury selection, and I say this: the management of the jurors proved to be one of the more challenging tasks. Initially, a large hall was used to meet with the jury for admonitions and instructions. And then we brought them back in groups and took excuses from those who could not serve the length of the estimated time for trial, which I recall was six month estimate. After the hardship excuses were heard, deferments granted, and jury questionnaires filled out, we ended up, surprising to me, with a lot of people who wanted to serve on this jury. As a result, jury selection went very quickly. We selected twelve jurors and eight alternates. Our jury box only had fourteen chairs. In anticipation of this, and to save money, we went on EBay and found theater seating available for $46 dollars a seat. We had a quote that up to that point, of $10,000 dollars for new jury chairs. So including shipping, we paid $46 dollars a chair for twenty chairs. As the trial progressed, each morning we had the jurors meet in an adjoining building some distance from the courtroom. They would come over in groups, escorted by several bailiffs, and the day would begin. As the trial progressed, and time passed, there were bumps with the jurors, but I felt that nothing was serious enough to divert the energies of the court away from the progress of the case. Of course, there was an order that prevented the pictures being taken of the jurors, and their names were not revealed by the court. One day a sheriff’s deputy caught a photographer taking pictures of the jurors as they arrived at court. The camera was seized, the images were removed, and the photographer was banned from the court campus permanently. During deliberations, jurors complained of suspicious cars following them, and flowers being delivered to their homes, with invitations to be on television talk shows. Upon the completion of the trial, we provided a space at the court house for those jurors who were willing to talk to the media. It was our thought that they needed a safe space for their discussion, if they cared to share those thoughts. They talked for over an hour. We also set up a safe place for them to talk to the TV program bookers, if they desire. Again, I thought a little supervision at this juncture would go a long way.
Seth Hufstedler: Ron, from your point of view now, what were you looking for in a juror? How did you go about trying to find it? How was your conduct in the courtroom affected by that jury? Did you do anything in the courtroom because of your anticipation of what the jurors might think?
Ron Zonen: I thought that I handled jury selection to a large extent the way that I handled jury selection for the 25 preceding years that I’ve been trying cases, and I didn’t do anything too terribly different. Although we did have questionnaires from each of the jurors that we had an opportunity to review. We had a jury selection expert, and they had a jury selection expert, and I doubt that I will do it again in the future. I don’t think that I found it particularly helpful. What caused me a lot of concern in the very beginning is when I went to that first day for challenges, and I watched the jurors parade into the courtroom, and again we were always concerned about the issue of celebrity. When you have someone who is recognized as, quite possibly, the single most famous person in the world, certainly at the peak of his career he was that way, and clearly the most recognizable person in the history of modern times and show business. That’s what we were dealing with, and we were concerned how we would respond to that. I watched the jurors coming in, as they were walking in the door, and they would stop about 6 feet in when they would see Michael Jackson and just come to a complete halt, and just look at him. There was nothing else that was going on in the courtroom at the time. This entire panel was brought in, and we went through the hardship challenges, and it was expected that it would be about 6 month trial, and for the most part Judge Melville excused anybody that said it would be a financial hardship. Immediately we lost anybody who ran a business, anybody who had an important position where they couldn’t be away from the job for a period of six months. We lost all of the people who I like to put on juries, generally, and who we were left with were people who were unemployed, underemployed, or retired to a large extent, or students. And that’s the body of people who certainly should be represented on juries, but not necessarily as the majority or the entirety. So that was the issue that we were dealing with once we started jury selection. We dealt with a great deal with what I thought to be inappropriate levity on the part of the jurors once they were in front of the audience filled with celebrities, many of whom the jury knew. People like Greta Van Susteren or Dan Abrahms. If you watch television news in the morning or the afternoon, then you saw a lot of faces that you recognized. And it became very difficult to deal with the people who were there who did not want to take that moment terribly seriously, and became difficult for us, and for me personally it wasn’t the kind of jury that I was used to selecting in Santa Barbara. It wasn’t the same level of education or the same level of professional accomplishment, and that ended up being a problem. During the course of the trial, afterward we had determined that some of the jurors had continued to read the papers, in violation of the court’s directive. During much of the trial, at least one of the jurors was negotiating a book deal. Had the verdict come back guilty, I suspect that it would not have stood, because of some of those actions. All of the jurors immediately got on a Lear jet and flew to New York and participated on a number of different television shows, and had an agent representing them in total. It was a difficult experience, as you can imagine. I never felt that it was the type of jury that I would have liked to have selected. They did deliberate for eight days, but I’m not sure what they discussed for eight days, based on the statements that they had made. But that’s ultimately how the case was resolved, and those were the issues that they dealt with from jury selection.
Tom Mesereau: We had a jury consultant, and quite honestly, Susan Yu and I talked a lot about her suggestions and rejected all of them. For example, she thought that women were going to be bad for us, particularly mothers, because it’s a molestation case. We felt that women were our number one desire. We weren’t worried about this molestation effect closing people’s minds. We felt that Michael is a very eccentric artist. He appears different. He looks different. He’s a creative spirit. We wanted people who were open to that. I’ve always felt that women, generally speaking, are much more open to that kind of behavior, that kind of aura, and that type of style about your life, then many men who can be harshly judgmental, very quickly. We wanted people who we thought could be independent minded. It was an intelligent jury. We had a civil engineer. We had a math teacher with a masters’ in math. We had a retired school principal with a masters’ in counseling. We had people with military experience. We had one woman who ran a local social services agency. It was a very intelligent jury. And I must say that I disagree with Ron; had it been a guilty verdict, they still would have been on a plane to New York to go to Good Morning America. They just would have, in my opinion. It was a jury that I just had a feeling would be very open minded, and I wanted people who were independent. I was under attack quite a bit for not seeking a change of venue by people in the Michael Jackson camp. And I had hung out in some bars and restaurants early and really discovered that Michael was not disliked in this community. A lot of people had a very decent impression of him. The allegations are horrific, let’s face it. They’re about the worst that you can have. But, I felt it was a very independent minded community. I learned, as I said before having never tried a case up there, that North of Santa Barbara County is somewhat different from South Santa Barbara County. That while the city of Santa Barbara is thought to be more liberal than the city of Santa Maria, the people are supposed to be more conservative in that venue. There are also proudly a lot more libertarian, meaning “we respect you. We’re good people. Don’t go too far in intruding in what we do.” I had a feeling that Michael was “their” celebrity; he was not hated at all. And I didn’t want a change of venue. Knowing that, under the rules I could have asked for some jurors to be shipped up from the city of Santa Barbara because I felt that local jurors would think that is a vote of non-confidence. I was attacked for doing that as well by some people in our camp. I had great faith in the community. I liked the community. I thought it was filled with very decent and honorable people. Strong willed people. I thought the jury would be fair and I really think they were.
Seth Hufstedler: Do any other members of the panel have anything else to offer on jury selection in an important case where you have such a high profile party?
Carl Douglas: Seth, I’m amazed that they were able to select this jury in a day and a half. I can remember when we spent six weeks in the Simpson case dealing with many of the same issues. I also like to echo the counterintuitive belief that the jurors in Santa Maria would be disfavorably disposed towards Michael Jackson. I know I represented him on and off for many years, and he had not just this criminal trial, but two other civil trials in the area, and he won both of those as well. There was a trial I can recall where several security guards alleged wrongdoing in an employment contest, and he won that case, and I think there’s one other, so he had always contributed to that community. He was well known, and he was in fact beloved. And oftentimes these kinds of cases take a very strong, self-confident lawyer to do well, because you are always the subjects of slings and arrows by many who may not have your temerity or have your confidence, so it’s really a testament to Tom and to Susan what they were able to do, because I can appreciate some of the slings and arrows that were headed their way. I heard some of my self on the QT, and that they were able to generate this result is a testament to their abilities as lawyers.
Seth Hufstedler: Any other comments from the panel on jury selection? Well, I have one question that isn’t quite jury selection, but jury evaluation, so let me read this question and see which one of you would like to take a shot at it. Do you think that there might have been a different result if the trial had occurred in a different venue, such as Los Angeles? Tom can’t very well say that he’s interested after his speech, but would anyone like to respond to that?
Larry Feldman: I don’t think that it’s the venue, if you’re talking about the second case. I think it’s a totally different lawsuit, if you could keep the mother out of the case! The mothers in both cases, actually the parents are complicit in these things. The natural instinct of people in these kinds of cases is to ask “How can the parents let something like this happen?” When you bring these cases of false imprisonment, and Jackson is kidnapping, and their going back to Neverland, and you just keep broadening the case, you are playing right into the defendant’s game! If you file one count of sexual molestation, and that’s what occurred, if it occurred, I don’t know what happened, but if it occurred then you have a much better chance to get a conviction. There’s less to fight about. I think those are significant things. It’s no different than in a rape case. In any sexual molestation case, whether it’s rape, or it’s Michael Jackson, it’s highly emotional, there is a lot that’s going on in victims about their willingness to testify. I heard Tom say, for example, that he was all ready to go after the boy because he took $20 million, and he didn’t go through a criminal trial. So I understand how you’ll go after him as a defense lawyer, and if I was a defense lawyer I would do the same thing. That’s what you’re going to do. The truth is that these are real victims, and I don’t know what happened, and I’m not saying what happened because I wasn’t there, but these are real people. There are real women who have to decide if they are going to let a good lawyer like Tom cross examine them when they say his client raped them. This boy, who didn’t come back, who was outside the jurisdiction, had real issues to decide. He was living anonymously. From age 13 to 30, never was involved with the press, never gave an interview with the press. Went to college. Was living a secret, private life. And was he going to come back to Santa Maria and let you argue with him about why he didn’t go to the police at this stage in his life? You may think you have all of this evidence, but that’s real, moral issues that these people have to decide for themselves. It’s easy for me to say “You ought to do it. Stand up! You owe it to all the other people!” But in reality, it’s their lives, and there’s a lot at stake, and we as lawyers sometimes know all of the moves to cross examine someone, and we all do it, and that’s our job, but there are a lot of people’s lives that hang in the balance. I don’t think that any child sexual molestation case, which is now in the media, just compounds all of the problems that everybody faces, that the ones that don’t get in the press.
Carl Douglas: Seth, I think that there probably would have been a difference had the matter been tried in Los Angeles because I think he would have been afforded the opportunity to have a more diverse jury than he would have in Santa Barbara. I’m the only African-American lawyer that is up on this panel, and I’ve been practicing law, both in criminal and civil courts in Los Angeles, for the last thirty years. And I factor in race in everything that I do as a lawyer in Los Angeles. Like it or not, it is a reality that I have to face, to my peril, if I ignore it. And I suggest that if there had been a trial in Los Angeles, with a six month estimate, and the need to first pre-qualify a jury panel for jury hardships, I would gather that there likely would have been more prospective jurors who looked like Mr. Jackson then there probably were in Santa Maria, and by that token there would have been a healthier cynicism to some of the police based attacks, and there probably would have been a greater renitence, if that’s possible, to some of Tom’s cross-examinations that drew questions into some of the motives of many of the prosecution witnesses. Rightly or wrongly, African-American communities loved Michael Jackson, and rejected the allegations, both in 1993 and in 2005. And while I think that the verdict was more a consequence of great lawyering, there would have been a jury pool more receptive to some of the broader based attacks, and on the prosecution, than I gathered there was in Santa Maria.
Seth Hufstedler: Let’s have a little switch here for the moment. Here’s a question that maybe is not a Fifth Amendment privilege to be sited here, but a question that probably won’t get answered,, It’s a question to Tom. Are you planning to write a book on the Jackson trial?
Tom Mesereau: Not at the moment!
Seth Hufstedler: That’s pretty much a non-committal answer! (Laughter!) Here’s another question, that’s really off the deep end, and one that frankly can’t be answered very well. But in any event, I suspect probably the first guy to have to answer it should be Larry or Carl. Let’s have Carl take a first shot at it: in a large profile case, how do you ascertain what is a reasonable fee to charge?
Larry Feldman: As much as you can get!
Carl Douglas: I’m always mindful of the advice of a great lawyer who died this year by the name of Charles Lloyd. And Charlie always said to ask for twice of what you want, and ask for half up front! And that’s always a good technique! In our experience, it is always a very important issue that lawyers have to consider. I know in Michael Jacksons’ case, we were in many ways confronted with some of the economic realities that he was facing at that time because although Michael continued to live like it was 1984, his purse strings didn’t resemble that lifestyle that he was continuing to live. So it’s always a challenge. Whenever you get a high profile case as a criminal lawyer, all you’re looking at are dollar signs. And you’re trying to figure out how much you can ask for, which is not 100%, but maybe 85%, so that you can persuade the client to retain you, and still maximize what you can do in terms of your own personal perspective and business judgment. But it’s difficult. I remember, for example, in the OJ Simpson experience, that the firm probable generated 40% of revenue in the sixteen months that we were working on the case, than we had the year before, when we were not on the case. Now I’m sure that Johnnie made a cost-benefit analysis that with the added profile that it would work out in the end, and ultimately for him it proved very reasonable, but it’s not always as beneficial financially as one would think up front. Often times, and others can confirm, celebrity folks are often kind of cheap with their money, particularly when it comes to paying for lawyers. They don’t have often the same willingness as you would think, or as their profile would otherwise suggest.
Seth Hufstedler: Well I certainly wouldn’t suggest that the last two questions haven’t been answered, but I’m going to pass on to a third question. This is one I would have expected earlier, but it finally came in. For Judge Melville and the lawyers: please tell us about the pajama incident!!
Tom Mesereau: Michael called me one morning and he had been walking through Neverland in the dark, he fell, he injured his back, and he was at the hospital. And I promptly reported that to Judge Melville, who didn’t like what he was hearing, and ordered him in 60 minutes. I told Michael and his people, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not to go home and change. He’s to get to court right away. I don’t want him remanded to jail, and I don’t want his bail yanked. That would be a disaster. And he listened to what I told him to do. And the press just went crazy. I have to tell you after the trial I talked to some of the jurors, including the foreperson, who told me they didn’t even notice it. When they came into the courtroom, he was sitting at the counsel table surrounded by his attorneys. They never even noticed it, and it never meant a thing to them. But the press went berserk!
Ron Zonen: I thought it was of his more conservative looks actually! (Laughter!)
Tom Mesereau: I think the press just made a mountain out of a molehill, and I don’t think it had any effect on the trial. But Michael was such a target. They would just try and find any little detail, and try and make a huge production out of it. And unfortunately that happened throughout his life, and I think it was one of the sadder aspects of his life.
Seth Hufstedler:: Here’s a difficult question, and probably Tom is the guy to give the first answer to it: Isn’t Jackson two, the trial, really all about the continuing vitality of reasonable doubt, given that many of the jurors said after the trial that they believed Jackson was guilty, but that it just hadn’t been proved beyond a reasonable doubt? Didn’t the problems with the mother alone create reasonable doubt, regardless of Jackson’s guilt?
Tom Mesereau: Well, first of all, my understanding was that one juror said that, and that was the civil engineer who said that he felt there was definitely reasonable doubt, and that’s why he voted for an acquittal. I don’t recall any other juror who said that they did this on the basis of reasonable doubt. I know that some of the jurors I talked to were appalled at the charges, and appalled at the quality of the witnesses and the testimony. I do think this verdict was a great victory for the justice system. It shows that jurors take their job very seriously, and they are impervious to media onslaughts, that they try to do what’s right, they try to look at the evidence in the courtroom, and I think it’s a great testament to the validity and the integrity and fairness of our jury system.
Seth Hufstedler: Here’s a procedural question, Larry and Carl: how did the three judge settlement panel get established, because that’s unusual in superior court. My guess is you remediated, but you tell me.
Larry Feldman: Well, we had to have a safe place, and Johnnie got on the case in December, and this all happened in January, so there had never been a discussion about resolving the case on either side up until then. We think we wanted, as Carl said Johnnie had been doing a lot of plaintiff’s work, so we wanted judges that we could trust. And both sides had a lot of convincing to do of their respective clients about settling, and the value of the case, and what’s in the best interest of the young boy, and what was in the best interest of Michael Jackson, and that wasn’t simple. And we thought if we could get more than one judge, but three respected judges, that we had a much better chance to get the case resolved, so we picked three judges, all retired, all with were well liked by Johnnie and I. We had a lot of respect for them, we appeared before them many, many times, we tried cases before them, and we trusted them. And that’s how that occurred.
Seth Hufstedler: So that was a voluntary agreement?
Larry Feldman: Yes, a total voluntary agreement. To put it into context, at the point this case settled, a lot of witnesses had been deposed, but Michael Jackson had not been deposed, and at some point in time Michael Jackson was going to have to decide whether he was going to take the Fifth Amendment, which he didn’t, or whether he was going to let us depose him. And there was a lot of procedural maneuvering by the defense to try to keep putting that decision off. And as that decision and their moves were not able to accomplish what they wanted, which was never to have Michael Jackson take the Fifth Amendment. And if Michael Jackson takes the civil case, then that is bad for that civil case, and that is bad for him ultimately winning, and we can all say that the Constitution says you have a right to do it, and blah, blah, blah, but the practical effect of that in front of a jury would be devastating, and the public at that time for his career, so we had narrowed the moves that he could make to try to keep putting off this deposition. We sent him interrogatories, and they didn’t answer them. We sent him his depo, and he didn’t show. We were down to the last sixty days, and I think that was the stage of this thing. One thing we get in these cases, and I’m sure it’s for both sides, you get a lot of people that want to testify, who come up with these stories. And the phone rings, and you hear the story, and you think you’ve got a great witness, and then as you spend the money, and the time, and the energy to chase down the story to see if there is any accuracy, and you find out that these people are not truthful! They just want to get involved in the case. So it’s the job of both sides, and it winds up on the plaintiff’s side costing an awful lot of money that in contingent cases you generally chance it to find out who are the real witnesses who aren’t going to get destroyed, and which of those witnesses really hold up on cross-examination? Which of those witnesses have corroboration? In Jackson One when there finally was somebody that we cracked, the first thing they did was they ran to the media, and the television, and got paid to give their story on television before we got them on a deposition under oath! They ultimately testified under oath, but those kinds of issues where somebody’s getting paid is just devastating, and you put it in the hands of Johnnie, or Tom, or Carl, and you give them a witness who has gotten paid to give their testimony, and even if they’re telling the truth, by the time they get done with them, the juries are going to look down at them. And so, in these high publicity cases you are confronted with that. The other point I’d like to make is this, which we haven’t talked about: it’s the next case that you also worry about. When you’re on television, if he has a juror who thought Michael Jackson was guilty, and that he did something wrong in defending him, then that could work against the next client. In the civil arena, we found just the opposite. The next cases that I tried, we would be screening jurors, and we found that it helped. The jurors, it helped me, and in every case thereafter the jurors recognized me from that case at that point. So it’s very important that when you do this, you do it right. You cannot make a fool out of yourself. You cannot be one of these people who are on television all the time just spouting out. You have to do it with a bit of class, and hopefully a little professionalism so that no matter how it comes out, you come out OK for the next case and the next client.
Carl Douglas: And if I adopt everything that Larry said. And in our perspective, you have to remember that there was a companion criminal investigation case going on by both the District Attorney’s office in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. There had been an occasion where Michael Jackson was examined, and his genitalia was recorded, which was part of an investigation. And that was part of the 300 pound gorilla in the mediation room. We wanted to do all that we could to avoid the possibility that there would be a criminal filing against Michael Jackson, and the reality was we were hopeful that if we were able to “silence” the accuser, that would obviate the need for any concern about the criminal side, so from our perspective there was a great deal of trust, not only with Johnnie and Larry because they had a twenty year prior friendship, there was a tremendous trust with Johnnie and the three judges being recommended. And we were facing the purple gorilla in the room of “If we don’t get this case settled before March, there is a criminal investigation looming, and no one wanted to consider the implications of that as it affected Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.
Seth Hufstedler: Thank you. You have almost earned your 3 hours and 15 minutes of credit, but I have one more question, and I will only accept one answer, and I’m not sure if I’ll only get one, but having heard what we have, the question that I indicated that we should look at, at some time, is: What do you think is the most interesting, unusual, surprising, spectacular event in the trial?
(Silence from the crowd.)
Seth Hufstedler: There wasn’t any? Certainly it wasn’t the pajama incident?
Tom Mesereau: To me the most spectacular event was verdict day. The energy, just the moment, waiting for Michael and his friends and family to arrive at the courthouse. I’ll never forget that day. It’s very difficult to describe. I woke up that morning and just had a feeling that something wild was going to happened, and I wasn’t wrong. Every second seemed like ten hours. It was a special day.
Seth Hufstedler: Well that is a spectacular time, any time when you’re on a jury trial and you wait for the phone to ring to tell you that the jury is coming in. Well, you’ve all been very attentive, and I appreciate that. I think that you have completely earned your three and a half hours, and I will sign you up for more! (Laughter!)
Analysis of the Q&A Session
1. “Of course, there was an order that prevented the pictures being taken of the jurors, and their names were not revealed by the court. One day a sheriff’s deputy caught a photographer taking pictures of the jurors as they arrived at court. The camera was seized, the images were removed, and the photographer was banned from the court campus permanently. During deliberations, jurors complained of suspicious cars following them, and flowers being delivered to their homes, with invitations to be on television talk shows.” This behavior by the media to intimidate, harass, and bribe the jurors during deliberations doesn’t surprise me, and shouldn’t surprise anyone else. There were hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenues at stake, and the media wasn’t about to let twelve ordinary people get in the way of their bottom line! To show you how despicable the media was during that time, look no further than this story about Bruce Rheins, a producer for CBS News who filed a trademark application in January 2004 for the name “Jesus Juice”, the name of the alcohol that the Arvizos lied about and said MJ served them. It was filed more than a year before the trial started, and this behavior showed how little regard this producer – who was in charge of CBS’s coverage of the MJ trial – had for both MJ and Gavin (assuming he was telling the truth, which we all know he wasn’t, but this producer didn’t know it then, yet went along with it anyway.) Here is an excerpt from an MJEOL Bullet on this topic:
To know that in Jan 2004, over a year before the trial began, these two a–holes were clearly seeking to profit and/or make a mockery of the entire situation is totally repulsive. The hateful way in which they sought to ridicule Jackson and the trial is totally indicative of how much attention they would have given to a non-negative Jackson story. I can only wonder what damaging information about the prosecution or the Arvizo family came to their attention early on, which was ignored because they already thought Jackson was guilty.
After news organizations found out about this trademark, Rheins and his wife went into damage control mode and said that they already had a winery business, and they used MJ’s image as a practical joke on friends, but then decided to trademark it so that nobody else would be able to trademark it and profit from it. Seriously, that’s what they said! Here is a part of a statement that he gave to the media after the firestorm erupted:
I spoke to Rheins about it and he called the whole effort “a very bad attempt at a spoof.” Rheins said he and his wife make their own wine and intended to produce a small number of “Jesus Juice” bottles to give to friends, some of whom covered the Jackson trial alongside of Rheins. He said there was never an intention to profit in any way from the effort.
When questioned about filing for the trademark, Rheins said the couple did so because “we didn’t want somebody to get hold of it” and make money off of it when they could be traced as the creators. When I asked about reports that they had tried to solicit wineries in a partnership, he told me that his wife had made a “joking reference” on her Web site about seeking partners but they have “never approached any wineries” and if any had contacted them (none did), they would have turned them down.
Rheins wanted to make clear that he understands this to be a sensitive and serious issue for many and that he intended this to be a private matter between himself, his wife and their friends. Calling it a “stupid, bad attempt” at humor, Rheins added, “I understand that people are truly offended and I sincerely apologize for that.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire!! He claims that there was no intention to profit, but the following excerpt proves otherwise!!
NewsBusters.org has information clearly showing that Rheins intended on making money from this image if he hasn’t done so already. They have caught Rheins with his pants down. They found out Rheins and Westlake had a cafepress.com virtual store selling merchandise with the blasphemous Jackson/Jesus image on it. It was archived and made available to their readers at the NewsBusters.org website. Rheins’ cafepress.com store, Ron de Cana Productions, was selling everything from wall clocks to t-shirts to coffee mugs with this image on it. And, from the archived information, Rheins and Westlake clearly played on the Jackson angle. For example, they were charging $15 for a wall clock with their “Jesus Juice” trademark image on it. In the description section for that clock was the following.
The clock is called the “Off the Wall Clock”! I mean, come on! It is in terrible taste to seek to benefit from a child molestation trial, especially when the person on trial was factually innocent and acquitted. On top of this is the fact that Rheins has apparently lied and sought to cover his tracks by having the items removed from the cafepress.com store bearing the Jackson-esque image. Further, NewsBusters.org, with the power of Google’s cache directory, also dug up info from Westlake’s online diary website. Her July 2005 entries are also disgustingly flippant in relation to Jackson and the trial. She admitted at the time that she and her husband, Rheins, purchased the “Jesus Juice” trademark. And nowhere does she mention that it was all a big joke. Reading through the vapid drivel at her site, we came upon some very telling information. She wrote that she went to Santa Ynez Valley on what she called the “Sideways-Jackson Molestation Tour”. Not a “molestation trial tour”, or a “Sideways Tour”. She specifically used that language. She reminisced about how the Santa Maria Courthouse parking lot would hold the “limo” at the ready to take Jackson to county jail had he been convicted. From the website at dawnwestlake.com:
“We went up to the Santa Ynez Valley! Wooo-hooo!!! We did the “Sideways-Jackson Molestation Tour!” YIPPPPEEEE!!! (And, I enjoyed every minute of it!) Since Bruce [Rheins] was up here for 5 months for the Jackson trial, the first stop was the Santa Maria Courthouse, its parking lot still painted with the official partitions of the photojournalists, and the “limo” at the ready which would have taken Jackson to county jail, if he’d been convicted. “It would have been quite a change from the lush life he leads behinds this gate at Neverland. And too soon, it was time to leave. But I’ll be back! Maybe if Jesus Juice takes off, to buy property!!”
Again, the mentality of these people is what disturbs me the most. What kind of sleaze bag would delight in reminiscing about such a time? Further, she clearly insinuates that “Jesus Juice” was supposed to be for-profit and wanted to buy property in Santa Ynez Valley after it “takes off”.
After this scandal hit the airwaves, the Rheins apologized ad nasuem, and filed a request for “express abandonment” of their trademark. But their apologies were worthless because their actions show their true intent. They wanted to make as much money as possible, so that they could try to buy Neverland and convert it into a winery.
Another example of the people trying to profit off of a conviction is the XtraJet fiasco of 2003. As MJ and his lawyer Mark Geragos were flying from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara to turn himself in, they were surreptitiously recorded by hidden cameras, and the company allegedly tried to sell the footage to various media outlets, including Fox News. Geragos sued the company and won a multi-million dollar judgment against XtraJet, but that decision was overturned by an appeals court and Geragos asked for a new trial rather than accept a reduced award.
If people were so convinced that MJ was guilty that they would try to sell secret recordings of him, and try to trademark his image to be used on the bottles of “Jesus Juice” (which would be sold in the hopes of buying Neverland), then it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility to assume that they would harass, intimidate, or bribe the jury during deliberations, would it?
2. “We lost all of the people who I like to put on juries, generally, and who we were left with were people who were unemployed, underemployed, or retired to a large extent, or students.”, “It wasn’t the same level of education or the same level of professional accomplishment, and that ended up being a problem.”, & “I never felt that it was the type of jury that I would have liked to have selected.” Here is Zonen whining about the jurors, trying to make them out to be scapegoats for a wrongful acquittal. Apparently, he didn’t have enough doctors, lawyers, or Ph.D.’s on the jury who could decipher the prosecution’s complex timeline of MJ’s kidnapping and conspiracy! Quit crying over spilled milk Zonen! You’re no different than a professional athlete who blames the referees after he loses a blowout game! (And you better believe that Zonen and Sneddon were blown out by Mesereau!)
3. “During much of the trial, at least one of the jurors was negotiating a book deal.” The juror he is referring to is Eleanor Cooke, who negotiated a book deal before the verdict was reached, only to see it dissipate like smoke in the wind after MJ was acquitted. But she wasn’t about to let an acquittal stand in the way of a big, fat payday! She and fellow juror Ray Hultman accepted blood money to write a book saying they were bullied into wrongfully acquitting MJ, but it was lost when they were discovered to have plagiarized a tabloid article written by Maureen Orth. For more info on this debacle, read this post. .
4. “…but I’m not sure what they discussed for eight days, based on the statements that they had made.” Well Zonen, I’ll be happy to let you know that the jurors actually discussed the facts of the case for those eight days! And not because the case was close, but because they wanted to make sure they thoroughly went over every piece of evidence so that they could be sure that their verdict was correct and just, and also so they wouldn’t be accused of being to star-struck to deliberate! They were so thorough in their deliberations that they had the court stenographer read back to them Gavin’s testimony in its entirety! Here is an excerpt:
The release of six handwritten notes from jurors in the Michael Jackson case show they reached their decision to acquit the pop star after careful consideration of evidence, including a total review of the accuser’s testimony.
A request from the jury foreman to Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville resulted in a court stenographer going to the jury room and reading back the boy’s entire testimony.
The notes, which were disclosed in response to a news media request, also showed jurors were briefly deadlocked on two lesser charges that accused Jackson of furnishing alcohol to a minor. They quickly broke that deadlock and agreed on an acquittal.
“We cannot agree on the lesser counts of seven and eight,” said one note, which was quickly superseded by another saying, “Please disregard our prior request with counts 7 and 8.”
A short time later, jurors unanimously acquitted Jackson of all 10 charges against him as well as the lesser options that were offered to them if they acquitted him of the more serious counts.
5. “It was a very intelligent jury. And I must say that I disagree with Ron; had it been a guilty verdict, they still would have been on a plane to New York to go to Good Morning America.” Yes Mesereau, it truly was an intelligent jury! Intelligent enough to not fall for Sneddon’s dirty tricks or ad hominem attacks against MJ! (For example, his insinuation that MJ was gay due to those two children’s art books). And Zonen knows damn well that if there had been a conviction, not only would the jurors have flown to New York, but Diane Sawyer (who used to host Good Morning America) would have thrown rose petals on the ground for the jurors to walk on! In past interviews, Sawyer has done little to hide her contempt for MJ, as seen here:
And here she is trying to bait Britney Spears into saying something negative about MJ:
6. “I know I represented him on and off for many years, and he had not just this criminal trial, but two other civil trials in the area, and he won both of those as well. There was a trial I can recall where several security guards alleged wrongdoing in an employment contest, and he won that case, and I think there’s one other, so he had always contributed to that community.” The two civil trials that Douglas is referring to are the Hayvenhurst 5 and the Neverland 5. Here is a brief background on these two frivolous lawsuits:
A.) Hayvenhurst 5: These five former security guards from MJ’s Hayvenhurst estate were fired in February 1993 because they claimed that they “knew too much” about MJ’s relationships with children. However, the lawsuit wasn’t filed until November 1993, nine months after their termination. One of these idiots claimed that MJ called him and asked him to destroy a photo of a naked boy that MJ stored in a mirror frame! But here is where you can see how illogical their story is: why would MJ fire them for “knowing too much” about his relationships with children, 6 months before the allegations went public? And if they felt they were fired for “knowing too much”, then why did they wait until November 1993 to file the lawsuit? Why didn’t they file it in March or April? And why didn’t they just call the police in Februry 1993, when they claimed that they “knew too much”?
B.) Neverland 5: These losers were former Neverland employees who also claimed they were wrongfully terminated, in this case for cooperating with the police investigation of MJ. Unlike the Hayvenhurst 5, the Neverland 5 claimed to have witnessed MJ abusing kids, such as Macaulay Culkin, Wade Robson, and Brett Barnes. One of them also said that MJ asked him to bring him a bottle of Vaseline while he entertained his young guests behind closed doors! MJ countersued them for theft, among other things, and won a $1.5 million dollar judgment against them, for which they had to file for bankruptcy due to their inability to pay it! Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time that some of them testified against MJ……………
I will discuss these two cases in more detail in a later post.
7. “I think it’s a totally different lawsuit, if you could keep the mother out of the case!” What Feldman doesn’t realize is that it was impossible to keep Janet out of the case! Her testimony was critical to answer the questions of why the family kept going back and forth between Neverland and their home, why they flew to Miami with MJ, why they went to see him instead of going straight to the cops, and most importantly, why they shot the rebuttal video!
8. “When you bring these cases of false imprisonment, and Jackson is kidnapping, and their going back to Neverland, and you just keep broadening the case, you are playing right into the defendant’s game! If you file one count of sexual molestation, and that’s what occurred, if it occurred, I don’t know what happened, but if it occurred then you have a much better chance to get a conviction.” To piggyback off of my previous comment, the conspiracy charge was needed to justify why the family spent so much time at Neverland after the molestation allegedly began, and why the shot the rebuttal video in the first place! It also allowed Sneddon to bully potential witnesses who might defend MJ into not testifying for fear that they could be charged as a co-conspirator. For a more detailed explanation of the conspiracy charge, please read Mesearau’s analysis in Part 5 of this series. And for Feldman to “not know what happened” five years after the verdict, while he’s on a panel about that particular trial, is just absolutely unacceptable! You would think that even if he didn’t keep up with the trial, he would have done some research on it before appearing on a panel to discuss the case! Totally unprofessional!
9. “The truth is that these are real victims, and I don’t know what happened, and I’m not saying what happened because I wasn’t there, but these are real people.” Here is Feldman again giving an ambivalent answer in regard to the accusations. I guess we should call this the “Lisa Marie Presley answer”, because Feldman says that he “wasn’t there”. Despite his “not knowing” what happened, Feldman had absolutely no problem accepting his portion of MJ’s multi-million dollar settlement with the Chandlers! I wonder how much of that money was donated to child abuse prevention organizations? (Same thing with Carl “I bought a brand new car” Douglas!)
10. “From age 13 to 30, never was involved with the press, never gave an interview with the press. Went to college. Was living a secret, private life. And was he going to come back to Santa Maria and let you argue with him about why he didn’t go to the police at this stage in his life? You may think you have all of this evidence, but that’s real, moral issues that these people have to decide for themselves.” Here is Feldman trying to rationalize Jordie’s decision to not testify against MJ by saying that Jordie was living the “good life” and didn’t want to ruin it by exposing himself to the media. Well, considering that Jordie threatened legal action to avoid being subpoenaed, he must have really wanted to maintain his anonymity! Fortunately, Mesereau has a different explanation for Jordie’s refusal to testify:
I think his explanation is very plausible, don’t you? Ha ha ha!
11. “I think he would have been afforded the opportunity to have a more diverse jury than he would have in Santa Barbara.” Douglas is right; had the trial been moved to a more diverse county, then the jury would surely have been more diverse, although the outcome would still be the same. Fortunately, it wasn’t moved, and as a result nobody can play the “race card” and say that MJ was acquitted by black jurors because he was black!
12. “there likely would have been more prospective jurors who looked like Mr. Jackson then there probably were in Santa Maria, and by that token there would have been a healthier cynicism to some of the police based attacks, and there probably would have been a greater renitence, if that’s possible, to some of Tom’s cross-examinations that drew questions into some of the motives of many of the prosecution witnesses. Rightly or wrongly, African-American communities loved Michael Jackson, and rejected the allegations, both in 1993 and in 2005.” Yes, there certainly would have been a more healthy cynicism of Sneddon’s persecution of MJ, as evidenced by the two black jurors who were dismissed by Sneddon, and then blasted him in the media (look in Part 5 for more info). And because African-American communities loved MJ (in disproportionate numbers, compared to society as a whole), Sneddon wanted to make sure that there weren’t any on the jury. In no way, shape, or form was Douglas trying to say that MJ appealed exclusively to blacks, since he is truly a worldwide icon that could sell out a stadium anywhere on the planet! There are people who would fly to the North Pole to see him in concert!
13. “Are you planning to write a book on the Jackson trial?” This question was asked to Mesereau, and his reply was “Not at the moment!” In 2005, Mesereau was offered a book deal to lie and say that MJ was guilty, but unlike those two lying jurors, Mesereau flatly rejected it because his reputation was worth more than a six-figure royalty advance! Here is an excerpt from a 2007 press release from Aphrodite Jones to promote her book “Michael Jackson Conspiracy”:
Thomas Mesereau, Jackson’s defence lawyer, encountered the same problem. After the trial almost every major publishing house in the US approached him with lucrative book deals. When he maintained that Jackson was truly innocent and he wouldn’t write anything to the contrary, every publishing house retracted its offer.
Hopefully Mesereu will one day get a book deal so that the fans can hear his side of the story from someone with true first-hand knowledge of the trial, as opposed to a journalist who was on the outside, looking in. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for the foreword that he wrote to Aphrodite’s book.
14. “In a large profile case, how do you ascertain what is a reasonable fee to charge?” The answers that Douglas and Feldman give shouldn’t surprise anyone! Feldman says to ask for “as much as you can get”, while Douglas says to “ask for twice of what you want, and for half up front!” Now, the ironic thing is that at the 2005 Harvard Law seminar, Mesereau was asked the exact same question, yet his answer was the total antithesis of Feldman and Douglas’s answer! Stay tuned for when I post the transcript of that seminar so you can see Mesereau’s attitude towards charging fees, including under what conditions he’s willing to work for a reduced fee, or for free!
15. “I remember, for example, in the OJ Simpson experience, that the firm probable generated 40% of revenue in the sixteen months that we were working on the case, than we had the year before, when we were not on the case. Now I’m sure that Johnnie made a cost-benefit analysis that with the added profile that it would work out in the end, and ultimately for him it proved very reasonable, but it’s not always as beneficial financially as one would think up front.” If this statement doesn’t tell you what the main priority of Douglas and Cochran is, then nothing will! In a nutshell, Douglas is saying that because his firm didn’t have as many clients while they defended OJ Simpson, their revenues dropped to 40% of what they were the year before, but nevertheless they defended Simpson because they knew that the publicity they would gain would bring them more high-profile clients who would increase profits in the future. I’m sure they did a cost-benefit analysis before defending MJ too!! Can you imagine if Mesereau did a cost-benefit analysis before deciding whether or not to defend an indigent death row inmate in the Deep South?
16. “Please tell us about the pajama incident!!” This is an example of the ridiculousness and foolishness that permeated throughout the seminar, with the exception of Mesereau’s performance. “Pajama day” was brought up three or four times, yet nobody was asked to explain Gavin’s testimony, which occurred the same day! If they wanted something to laugh at, that certainly would have been it!! Instead, the audience was forced to deal with comments like Zonen’s snide remark about MJ’s pajamas being one of his more conservative looks!
17. “Given that many of the jurors said after the trial that they believed Jackson was guilty, but that it just hadn’t been proved beyond a reasonable doubt?” Obviously the person who asked this question doesn’t have their facts straight! There were not “many” jurors who openly said that they thought MJ was guilty; it was only one! None other than Ray Hultman, who was one of two traitors who “sold their souls to the devil” (as MJ would say in “Money”). The funny thing is that Hultman’s belief that MJ was guilty in 1993 was not rooted in any facts, but merely his own suspicion, which is no different than Latoya’s suspicion of MJ being guilty based on the “hush money checks” that she allegedly saw! Here’s what Hultman said after the trial that helped extend his 15 minutes of fame:
“I can’t feel that Michael Jackson could sleep in the same bedroom for 365 straight days with a boy and not do something more than just watch television and eat popcorn. I mean, that doesn’t make sense to me.”
Did he give any hard, irrefutable evidence to back up his assertion that MJ was guilty in 1993? Absolutely not! Because MJ “didn’t make sense to him”, that was his logic for presuming he was guilty! It didn’t “make sense” that MJ would watch television and eat popcorn instead of going out to strip clubs, messing around with groupies, getting into bar room brawls with his entourage, using recreational drugs for pleasure, driving drunk, and doing a myriad of other activities that “normal” celebrities do on a regular basis!
And to set the record straight, MJ did NOT spend 365 straight nights in the same bedroom as Brett Barnes! That is a media myth that started when they misinterpreted his sister Karlee’s testimony about how many nights she estimated that her brother spent sleeping in the same room (and not necessarily the same bed) as MJ! Here’s an excerpt from her testimony:
27 Q. And virtually every night on that tour, Mr.
28 Jackson slept with your brother Brett? 9413
1 A. Yes.
2 Q. How many nights would that have been,
4 A. Let’s see, let’s divide 365 days into half.
5 Q. Okay. Is that about it? About —
6 A. Well, if I said I spent half the year
7 overseas with him one year and half of the year
8 overseas with him the other year, I think that would
9 total about 365 days altogether.
10 Q. Okay. So 365 nights he spent the night
11 alone with your brother in his room?
12 A. Yes.
13 Q. Did that ever — did that ever seem odd to
15 A. No.
16 Q. Didn’t seem odd to you that a 35-year-old
17 man —
18 A. Not at all.
19 Q. — is sleeping with a ten-year-old boy?
20 A. Not at all.
Karlee made a simple estimate, and the media ran wild with it and twisted it to say that MJ spent 365 consecutive nights with Brett, when that clearly is not what Karlee meant during her testimony, yet Hultman and other jurors believed this media myth!
Not surprisingly, juror Susan Drake did NOT become a media celebrity after giving the following answer to a question posed by Larry King:
KING: Was there a chance you would have convicted anything guilty, Susan, on one of the minor counts?
DRAKE: Nothing. I went in there with a courage to convict a celebrity. Because I really believe in doing what is right. And witness after witness I was more convinced of the innocence, because of the motivations of financial gain and revenge, it was just amazing the way it was laid out.
And here is Drake’s quote to NY Post “columnist” Andrea Peyser, who wrote the disgusting “Freak of the Week” article earlier this year, which I won’t even link to because it’s a waste of time for you to read it! Unfortunately, I had to use Diane Dimond’s book as a source for this quote. From page 313:
Drake would later tell New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser that she had been totally convinced that Michael Jackson was blameless. “I’m adamant,” she was quoted as saying, “I think he’s not guilty and I think he’s innocent.”
As for Hultman, based on his statement about MJ after he died, maybe his feelings for MJ softened over the years:
“I offer my sympathies to Michael Jackson’s family and hope God will give them strength during this time. Michael Jackson was undeniably a great entertainer and it’s sad that much of his talents and energy in later life was consumed by having to defend some poor personal choices.”
18. “And there was a lot of procedural maneuvering by the defense to try to keep putting that decision off. And as that decision and their moves were not able to accomplish what they wanted, which was never to have Michael Jackson take the Fifth Amendment.” This is something I discussed in Part 1 of my article on MJ’s settlements. In a nutshell, Feldman is asserting what any sane defense attorney would do in that situation; try to keep your high profile client from having to testify in civil court! If MJ had taken the Fifth Amendment in civil court, it could have been used against him by the jurors (unlike in a criminal trial), and of course if he had testified everything he said would have been used against him in a criminal trial!
19. “One thing we get in these cases, and I’m sure it’s for both sides, you get a lot of people that want to testify, who come up with these stories. And the phone rings, and you hear the story, and you think you’ve got a great witness, and then as you spend the money, and the time, and the energy to chase down the story to see if there is any accuracy, and you find out that these people are not truthful!” This is pretty self-explanatory, don’t you think?!! This statement is far more exculpatory than anything that Carl Douglas said at this seminar! For examples of the types of witnesses he is talking about, look at my descriptions of the Hayvenhurst 5 and the Neverland 5 above at #6.
20. “…where somebody’s getting paid is just devastating, and you put it in the hands of Johnnie, or Tom, or Carl, and you give them a witness who has gotten paid to give their testimony, and even if they’re telling the truth, by the time they get done with them, the juries are going to look down at them” Feldman is showing that he has some common sense when it comes to having his witnesses testify against MJ’s legal team. He’s expressing his reservations about their credibility, considering that they sold their stories to tabloids after the scandal broke, instead of going to the police before the scandal broke! Obviously Sneddon didn’t stop to think about this before throwing those former Neverland employees on the witness stand, only to get slaughtered by Mesereau!
21. “And that was part of the 300 pound gorilla in the mediation room. We wanted to do all that we could to avoid the possibility that there would be a criminal filing against Michael Jackson, and the reality was we were hopeful that if we were able to “silence” the accuser, that would obviate the need for any concern about the criminal side, so from our perspective there was a great deal of trust, not only with Johnnie and Larry because they had a twenty year prior friendship, there was a tremendous trust with Johnnie and the three judges being recommended.” What the ___, Carl?!! What are you trying to do? Are you trying to make it look as if you wanted to “silence” Jordie by “paying him off”? This has got to be the stupidest thing he said all night! First of all, and we’ve been through this a million times already, MJ did NOT “pay off” the Chandlers! “Pay off” implies that MJ offered them money in exchange for their silence, and had it not been for that offer they would have willingly testified in court. But we know that is not true, because they never had any intention of testifying against MJ in criminal court, and if they wanted to they certainly wouldn’t have filed the civil lawsuit first! I believe that Douglas meant that they didn’t want a criminal trial because they wanted to spare MJ the negative publicity, and NOT because they thought Jordie was telling the truth! As a defense lawyer in such a high profile case, Douglas should have been more descriptive in his recollection of those negotiations, because he almost painted the picture of MJ trying to buy his way out of a criminal trial. And I’m sure that with Larry Feldman’s and Johnnie Cochran’s 20-year “friendship” , as well as the fact that they had a tremendous “trust” the three judges, that they all went out for drinks and partying after the settlement was finalized!
In closing, I’d like to say that this seminar was more about entertainment than education! The Q & A session is only as good as the questions that come from the audience, and in this case there were not enough substantive, intriguing questions directed towards either side, which leads me to believe that many people in the audience came to the seminar ill-prepared.
If you want to see how an educational seminar is supposed to be conducted, than wait until I post the transcript of the 2005 Harvard Law seminar! In the meantime, you can download it yourself using the link located to your right, under the blogroll.