Transcript of the 2005 Harvard Law Seminar on Race and Justice, part 1. THOMAS MESEREAU
On November 29th, 2005, The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (a division of the Harvard Law school) hosted a legal seminar for lawyers, law students, and the general public. This event included guest speakers Thomas Meseareau, MSNBC’s Dan Abrahms, and district attorney Martha Coakley (who was later elected Attorney General), and their purpose was to discuss how race and class affects the justice system in both everyday cases, and high profile cases such as the Michael Jackson trial.
The CHHIRJ honors and continues the work of one of the greatest civil rights lawyers of the twentieth century. Litigator, scholar and teacher, Charles Hamilton Houston dedicated his life to using the law as a tool to reverse the unjust consequences of racial discrimination. CHHIRJ is committed to marshaling the resources of Harvard and beyond to continue Houston’s unfinished work. Here is a brief excerpt of the mission statement of the CHHIRJ.
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute marshals the resources of Harvard and beyond to advance Houston’s dreams for a more equitable and just society. It brings together students, faculty, practitioners, civil rights and business leaders, community advocates, litigators, and policymakers in a variety of forums, conferences and meetings. Participants present new scholarship, debate legal and policy strategies, and craft new solutions that can be widely adopted. Scholarship that emerges from the Institute is incorporated into the teaching and training of the next generation of legal scholars and advocates. This model ensures that the worlds of research and practice will be continually linked, a strategy that represented such a critical part of Houston’s vision for reform.
The Institute is initially focusing on three areas that we consider central to the struggle for racial justice: closing the racial achievement gap, reforming criminal justice policies, and improving prospects for people of color and foreign-born residents to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship in this country. Other issues we intend to address include racial disparities in access to quality health care, voting rights, immigration reform, housing discrimination and regional equity, and creating greater alignment between equal opportunity agendas of African Americans and Latinos.
The Houston Institute and Professor Ogletree enjoy the enthusiastic support of Dean Martha Minow of Harvard Law School and key leadership within Harvard University. However, like all institutes affiliated with Harvard, it is responsible for raising independently the funds necessary for its operations and success.
The seminar is now available on Youtube! Here is part 1; you can watch the remaining parts on youtube. It can also be downloaded from the Blogroll on the right.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2005
Charles Ogletree: Good evening, and let me welcome you to another presentation of the Charles Hamilton Houston lecture series. I’m Charles Ogletree, the founder and the director. I’m so delighted to have so many of you here tonight for this special fall program. As with all of the programs sponsored by this institute, they are free and open to the public, and our programs are also webcast. This is a very special evening for us coming after the opening of the institute in honor of one of Harvard’s most distinguish graduates, Charles Hamilton Houston, and we opened September 15th, and this is a continuation on our series on the issues of race and justice, and no trial in the last century has generated as much national and international coverage as the trial of Michael Jackson this past year. We are very pleased to have people here talk about that and as well as other important issues. Those of you who are not on our list for our updates, we do circulate a signup sheet, and if you have an email address, so make sure you include it. After you hear from the speakers, there will be a brief Q&A session by me, and then you’re welcome to come to the microphones in the middle of the room to ask a question. This is an audience largely of law students and lawyers, and I know that law students and lawyers have lawyers have difficulty asking questions, rather than making statements, but today I hope that you’ll think very seriously before you go to the microphone and remember that there is a question at the end of your profound thought that you want to give us today. We have three distinguished speakers today, one is en route. Our special guest speaker is Tom Mesereau, who is no stranger to this community. Mr. Mesereau is actually a graduate of Harvard College, before he went to Hastings Law School in California, and he has been a distinguished member of the California Bar, and has not only handled significant cases, and I’ll talk about Michael Jackson in a moment, but he also was counsel for Robert Blake, and was the lawyer who was able to get Mr. Blake out on bail before they both had a parting of the ways. He also was quite helpful in making sure the Robert Black was not charged with the death penalty, which was certainly a possibility in the state of California. Most people know him from his flamboyant and incredibly effective work on the Michael Jackson case, which generated international attention. Much of it was on the defendant, Michael Jackson, but as people began to hone in on the evidence, it really focused on the lawyer. The amount of preparation, the effort to keep the cameras out of the courtroom because of the fear that it might prevent his client from getting a fair trial, challenging the government’s seizure of thousands of pieces of evidence from Mr. Jackson’s home before the trial, the vigorous examination of every witness called by the prosecution during the case, the willingness to stand up to the judge in some very heated arguments to ensure that his client was effectively represented, and the very much amazing verdict on fourteen acquittals on every charge that Mr. Jackson faced in this particular trial. That’s the public Tom Mesereau that you may know. The private Tom Mesereau, in my view, is an even more significant advocate of justice. Every year he goes down south to places like Mississippi and works on death penalty cases. He has been volunteering time in Southern California by working in the community there continuously. He’s been recognized and acknowledged by the former Reverend Cecil Murray of First AME Church in California, by Bishop Blakely of West Angeles Church, where Johnnie Cochran was memorialized in April of this year, and by many others, so he is someone who is well known in the community, not for what you hear about in the press, but for what he does every single day for poor, deprived, voiceless, and often powerless people in the criminal justice system. And we’re very pleased that, despite his very crazy schedule, he has flown here from California, walked to his old living quarters Elliot House, been on the Harvard Law School campus, walked through Harvard Square, and finds himself here for the moment. You’ll be hearing more from him in a short while, but please help me in welcoming Tom Mesereau. (Applause.)
My second speaker, who will walk in the room probably at my introduction of him, is also a well-known personality. Dan Abrams is the host of the Abrams Report, a program that appears regularly on MSNBC. He’s a commentator on every significant case involving legal affairs. He’s a graduate of Duke University. He’s been involved intimately in every case from the Scott Peterson prosecution to the OJ Simpson case to the Michael Jackson case. He’s a person who calls it like it is. He’s received numerous awards for his journalistic reporting. In fact right now he’s taping his show that will air tonight, here in Boston, and that’s why he’s running a little bit late. But he’s joined us for the evening, and I’ll say another word before I formally introduce him, so I’ll come back to him.
And finally, I’m very delighted to have the Middlesex District Attorney. If the face is familiar, it’s because Martha Coakley has been in this community for a very long time. She has been a seasoned prosecutor in the community, practicing here for a while. She also is the chief of the Child Abuse Protection Unit. She also was one of the two counsels who represented the Commonwealth in the prosecution of Louise Woodward several years ago, where Mrs. Woodward was convicted of homicide and was sentenced by one of our local judges to a term served, and was released. She now has returned to England and has become a member of the Bar, and has become a lawyer. She has been very active in many community organizations here in the area, and is well regarded by the prosecutors. She also is a candidate for Attorney General, which will be elected for Massachusetts in November 2006. She did her undergraduate work at Williams College, and her law work at Boston University, and her husband Thomas F. O’Connor Jr. is a former detective in the Cambridge Police department. I’m very pleased to have here tonight Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley. (Applause.)
In addition to the things that I’ve already said about Tom Mesereau, who’s going to talk a little about his role in the Michael Jackson case, and the role of lawyers, what is interesting is that we’re going to move through this program rather quickly because one of the unsung heroes that he is, is that tonight, and you’ll have time to watch it, Barbara Walters has selected the 10 Most Fascinating People in America and one of those people that she selected is Tom Mesereau, who will be on the interview tonight. I think its Channel 5 here at 10pm. So you’ll be able to see another side of Tom Mesereau. So I’m just very pleased to have someone who was involved in a very important case, and a very tough case. The Simpson case was the case of the 20th century, in terms of publicity, and the Jackson clearly was the case of the 21st century, with more international coverage, and more actual coverage, than any other case in the history of cases that have been covered thus far. And what we saw throughout was a very much under control, measured, confident, one of the few lawyers who said over and over, not his client is “not guilty”, but “My client is innocent”, which is a very important and bold statement that he made over and over again. So we’re so pleased to have him here at the Charles Hamilton Houston for Racial Justice, and please join me in applause as he comes to the podium, Tom Mesereau. (Applause.)
Tom Mesereau: Well thank you very much. I’m very honored and privileged to be invited to speak to the law school. I want to thank Professor Ogletree and the Institute, and the law school, and everyone associated with it. I’m really, really touched to be here, and I’ve been really looking forward to it. The institute, as I understand it, deals with issues of race and justice, so I’d like to begin by talking about how those two factors played into the Michael Jackson case, and what they mean for defense lawyers in general. There are two things that a defense lawyer has to do when it comes to race in a criminal case. Number one, “What is the significance of race, if any, in a case?” And Number two, “What do you do it with it?” And there are situations where you might decide that there clearly is an issue of racial injustice, racism, bigotry, favoritism, whatever it is, based on skin color or ethnicity. Or it could be religion, whatever it is. And if you identify that problem as a real problem in the case, the next question is, to properly defend your client and secure your client’s freedom, “What do you do with it?” “Do you raise it at all?” “Do you raise it before the trial?” “Do you raise it during the trial?” “What do you do with it, practically speaking, to save your client?”, because saving your client is the Number One responsibility that you have, in my opinion. Now if you look at American history, particularly our justice system, and how race plays a role in it, here have been cases where the defense lawyer, in conjunction with the client, decided that the case was a primarily political case, where the number one goal was to raise and expose racism. To raise and expose bigotry. And if that’s something that the lawyer and client decided to do, that’s something that might be the primary objective. But what I’m talking about is where the primary objective is your client’s freedom, your client’s reputation, and saving your client’s life. And I’m going to briefly mention three cases where there was a potential racial component, and how I handled it differently in each.
In the early 90s I agreed to defend a case pro bono in a federal court in Los Angeles. It was United States of America vs. Patricia Moore. Patricia Moore was an African-American woman from Compton, California, who was on a Compton City Council. And she had become quite controversial in Los Angeles for being very vocal about her views on race, particularly racism directed at blacks by whites. And in the aftermath of the Rodney King problems in Los Angeles, which I think many of you know about, there was another incident in south Los Angeles where an African-American girl went into a liquor store and got into an argument with a Korean-American owner, and she was shot to death. Shot in the back of the head. Her name was LaTasha Harlins. The owner of the store was prosecuted, and she had an African-American lawyer, a prominent one, defending her. She was convicted and got probation. The black community in LA was absolutely outraged at the lenient sentence, and felt that if the victim had not been African-American, the sentence would have been far harsher. And Patricia Moore was very vocal about her feelings about that. Unfortunately, she became a target of an FBI investigation into corruption in the city of Compton. And the FBI set up a very complex and intricate sting operation. And they had a developer, who was posing as someone who could bring tremendous economic benefits to this community. It was all a fake; it was all a fabrication. He was approaching members of the city council, and other prominent members in Compton, about developing a waste energy plant, which would bring Compton jobs, a larger tax base, revenues, and all sorts of other advantages. They talked about setting up a day care center. They talked about job training for students. They talked about helping the elderly with opportunities at the plant. It was going to be something that would take this very poor community, economically, and put it on the map. It was all a fake. It was just a sting operation. And they were taping people for three or four years, everyone from ministers to politicians to business people, and unfortunately Mrs. Moore at one point was taped for a year taking money that she should not have been taking. Now, to most people in my profession, and most people in the public, this was a case that no lawyer would ever want. And “Why would you ever take the case free?” And there was a lot more to the case than those tapes, which appear to incriminate her suggestively. They had worked for a year to try to get Patricia Moore to incriminate herself. They had taken a fellow from Las Vegas, an African-American male, who was trying to gain favors with the government, who had a conviction, and they arranged for him to essentially become her boyfriend. And he approached her at her office with flowers, and he told her that he was the President of a business development company that could give her a tremendous career boost. And he became her campaign manager in her political campaign. They went to Mexico on a number of occasions, occasions when the FBI, who was taping everything that he did and said on a daily basis, decided to conveniently not tape during those trips. And essentially, they decided that they were going to do whatever it took to put her in a compromising position. And even that witness, who they tried to hide outside of the state, and who I had the judge order in as our witness, admitted that it took him about a year to get her to start taking money. But unfortunately she did take it, and she took it for approximately a year, and she made statements that were rather incriminating, and she was convicted of some counts, and not others. But then, the question: “Why take the case?” I took the case because I thought what the government had done was absolutely outrageous. And I felt that they had never done this in any other predominantly white community that I ever heard of. I took the position that they would only do this in a poor, African-American community. I took the position that they thought that they could get away with things because they devalued the people in the community based on race. I raised an entrapment defense, and I also raised a motion to dismiss the case based on selective prosecution because of her race. Now in the middle of this investigation, and there must have been about 600 surveillance tapes in the case, and I had about 50 boxes of documents, I found one tape that I’ll never forget. Late one evening I’m in my office on a Saturday night, and I’m bleary eyed because I’m just sick of listening to tapes, and I listened literally to all 600 of them, most of them were audio tapes. I found one that seemed rather strange. I figured out, finally, that the two FBI agents, both of whom were white, and the chief government informant, who was Armenian, did not know the tape recorder was on. And they were waiting for my client to show up for her first payment. And it was just a remarkable tape because it was so different from any other tape I had ever heard. And at one point the Armenian informant said to the two white FBI agents “You know, this is a crazy case, they’re greedy, every black one is coming from everywhere, we’ll put she and the mayor (who was black) on ice, and then we’ll get another one.” That’s on the tape! Now, was that tape enough to exonerate Mrs. Moore in front of that federal court jury? It was not. But it was certainly enough to expose racism in a government investigation. Racism in the way they prosecuted the case. And it was enough to really send an embarrassing message to the government that “if you try this kind of stuff, you’re going to be exposed for what you are!” So she was convicted of some counts, she got a very minimal sentence, and I’m convinced it had a lot to do with what we exposed in the case. We also found a letter written to the head of the FBI by the informant that essentially was complaining about blacks getting away with things in Compton, and essentially, from my point of view, had a clearly racist message, as far as he was concerned, and formed a racist motive for what he was doing in Compton as he tried to help the government take down black politicians, OK? There’s a case where I found evidence of racism, and I screamed from A to Z about the government’s racism in the case. I felt it was really something we had to raise, and I felt it was something that had to be exposed.
Now a couple of years later I handled a high-profile criminal case in Los Angeles, and it was not pro bono. I represented a fellow named Larry Carol, who was a prominent newscaster, and had been for about 30 years in Los Angeles. He’s African-American. He and two other African-American men were indicted by a state grand jury in San Bernardino, California, which is outside of Los Angeles County, for securities fraud. Basically, some scams had been put together, and they were quite complex, and they were fraudulent. And the prosecutor, who was white, decided to charge the three African-American men, who I discovered, after my investigation, were really victims of the scam, and not the perpetrators. In fact, my client had put his own money into the investment, and there was evidence that he was told he had a big return coming, and commissions were promised to the three African-American men who were charged. If you listen to the tapes, the investigatory tapes, it was clear that the people who put these scams together were white. It was clear that white men had conceived of the entire way of presenting these scams so that almost anybody, on the surface at least, who didn’t know much about it, could be taken. I discovered that there had been a meeting of an International Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong the year before where bankers, and representatives of sophisticated financial institutions around the world, had got together to talk about this problem, these types of frauds, proliferating around the world, and scamming banks. So the question at that point was “Why are three black guys charged, and why are the white guys who put it together not charged?” So there was clearly a racial issue in the case. I chose not to raise it at all. I actually had some meetings in South Los Angeles with some black activists who wanted to bring busloads of people to Rancho Cuco Mongo, which is in San Bernardino County, which is where the trial took place, and I said “no”. I said “I’m familiar with the jury pool, it’s going to be predominantly white, and I don’t want to do anything that I think might hurt our defense. We’re going to win this case without raising a racial issue, even though even though it’s there.” And after an 11-week trial, the judge, who was the presiding judge in that courthouse, said he was going to do something that he had never done in his career, and he was not going to let it get to the jury. He was going to dismiss the case in the interest of justice. And he did. So there’s an example of where’s there’s clear evidence of racism, but you don’t raise it because your primary goal is to save your client’s life.
Now the Michael Jackson case: if you listen to the media, in the Michael Jackson case, you would say to yourself that this community where the case was tried, the city of Santa Maria, in Santa Barbara county, California, which is north of Los Angeles, and is between Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you listen to the media, you would have to conclude that this jury was composed of white rednecks who were ready to string up Michael Jackson without a trial. That’s what you’d have to conclude. And it was absolutely false. This was a community where Michael Jackson chose to live. There were very few African-Americans in the community. It was primarily white and Latino. And it’s known to be a very conservative community. White collar, conservative, but also with a strong libertarian streak. And even the prosecution, before the trial began, made a motion that we not be allowed to refer to them as the government in our defense. And that was denied, and as you can imagine, I periodically pointed out the government prosecutors in my defense. Well, I got up there early, and I had never tried a case in San Bernardino County. And I put my jeans on and hang out in some bars and restaurants, nothing fancy, usually by myself, to see what happened. And invariably somebody would figure out who I was, because it was a big case in that community, and they would start talking to me. And what I discovered, at least in terms of my limited experiences of that sort, which were usually mid-afternoon or early evening, was that Michael Jackson was extremely popular in that community. White people, Latino people, young people, middle-aged, old, children, loved Michael Jackson. He was “their” celebrity. He could have lived anywhere in the world, but he had chosen their community. He had done kind things for people in that community. When the Air Force wanted to use Neverland to do a film, he said “Come on in.” He had waiting lists of kids, primarily disadvantaged kids, who wanted to come to Neverland for a day, with the amusement park and the zoo. And even though not everybody liked him, a lot of people did. Now I had a jury consultant, and she did what jury consultants always do, and that is they conduct surveys and focus groups, and they obtain data, and they correlate data. They get your age, your occupation, and political affiliation, your religion, and your race. And they will associate it with various attitudinal issues. And they’ll come up with a typical profile of what a pro-prosecution juror would be, and what a pro-defense juror would be. And had I listened to that data, which the prosecution had as well, then I probably wouldn’t have done as well. Because, among other things, that data said, among other things, that women with kids are probably your worst jurors. It’s a child molestation case, and mothers want to protect their children. And this is the worst kind of thing they can do. And frankly, women with kids were what I wanted! Because jury surveys, hard data, this kind of analysis, is no substitute for your intuition, for your feelings about people, for your understanding about who your client is, and who might be open to understanding your client, for your intuitions and your instincts about who might look at your prosecution witnesses and see through them if you really think you represent the truth, and I’m convinced that we did. And I said to myself “Race is not going to be an issue in this case.” Now Michael and his family were concerned about no African-Americans on the jury. We had one African-American alternate who never made it to the actual panel. I was not concerned. The more I learned about my community, the more I learned about my case, the more I learned about my client, the more I learned about what I sensed about this courthouse, and what had happened in the past in this courthouse, the more I really thought “We’re going to get a fair shake.” And I’ll tell you something else: as I said before, I had never tried a case in Santa Barbara County, but I learned that there is somewhat of an attitudinal split between North County and South County. As I said before, Santa Maria is in the North County, which is primarily blue collar, working class, and very conservative. The south county is thought to be more affluent and more liberal. You have the University of California at Santa Barbara in the south, and you have the District Attorney’s principle office in the south. There had been two bills, I discovered, introduced in the state legislature trying to get the North to secede from the south. And I said to myself “You know? This is Michael’s community. He chose it. People like him. Let’s position Michael in his community against this vindictive DA from the south.” And I think it was effective because I also learned that most people in that community thought that the DA was on a vendetta to get Michael Jackson. He had convened a grand jury in the early 90’s to try to get an indictment, and he failed. The grand jury met for approximately six months, and would not charge Michael Jackson with anything! And I have since spoken to someone who was on that grand jury quite recently, from Los Angeles. She was on a Los Angeles grand jury that was convened at the same time, and they had real problems with these accusations. And real problems with a sense that people were trying to get money out of Michael Jackson by generating these charges. So he failed to get an indictment in the early 90s. So in the mid-90s, the District Attorney flew to Australia and Canada – they’re the only countries that I know that he went to, he may have gone to others – looking for “victims” of Michael Jackson. He failed! They told him to “Get lost! He didn’t do anything to us!” He had a website at the sheriff’s department, looking for information on Michael Jackson. And finally he got the case that you know about because it was tried this year. And as Professor Ogletree said, ten felony counts, “Not Guilty!”, and four lesser included misdemeanor counts, “Not Guilty!” Didn’t even hang him on misdemeanors! The case, in my opinion, was a total fraud. It was an effort by unscrupulous prosecutors and police to do anything they could, and say anything they could say, to try to get a conviction on a single count. And it was absolutely unjust what was done to Michael Jackson this year. But, my conclusion on the issue of race: I told people who I had the ability to talk to about the issue, that to African-American people Michael Jackson is black. He is black. If you ask him what his race is, it’s black. But to a lot of white people Michael Jackson transcends race. He brings people together. We played tapes to the jury where he talked about why he loves people on all continents, people of all races. He said, at one point, “I wish I could adopt a child from every continent. “ He talked about how he dislikes racism, and dislikes bigotry. And I am absolutely convinced that the jury saw Michael Jackson as somebody who brings people together, not apart. And I never had a concern about these jurors being fair. I just didn’t. I always thought this jury would never align with the DA “because it was their county.” I never thought so. I never thought this jury would penalize Michael Jackson because he has long hair. Because he has a serious skin condition which I have witnessed. It’s called vitiligo. He has shown me his skin. If you look at his back you will see brown patches and white patches. It’s changing and eating pigment in his skin. He’s very embarrassed with that. He chose to put white makeup on his face, rather than have these splotches all over his face. That’s his choice. I don’t think it’s a crime to do that.
And the media kept portraying him as so weird and so strange, and I would say to people “Turn on the TV at night and look at people who are stranger than Michael Jackson.” He is creative. He dances to his own drummer. On a tape we played to the jury he said “You know, you like to go to ball games, and I like to sit in my tree and make music”. Yes, he’s different. Yes, he’s a musical genius. Yes, he’s had his problems. Yes, he’s a human being. And no, he’s not a criminal!
So these are three examples where you had to first identify whether there was a racial component, and do it honestly. And then you had to say to yourself as a defense attorney “What do I do with it?” And you can’t listen to everybody else. And you can’t listen to the media. And you can’t listen to the scandal mongers! You have to figure out for yourself, based on the facts, the evidence, what you know about your client and the witnesses, what you think is going on. Now, I didn’t raise a racial issue. I didn’t think he was prosecuted because of his race, I thought he was prosecuted because he’s a mega-celebrity! I will say this: the last witness I called was actor-comedian Chris Tucker. And Chris Tucker testified that this family, who was accusing Michael Jackson, tried to hustle him. They wanted his car. They told him this child has cancer, like Michael Jackson was told. He invited him for a day in Las Vegas, where he was filming Rush Hour, and they stayed for three weeks and billed him for everything. They kept asking him for money, and he flew to Miami and he met Michael Jackson and he said “Be careful! Something is wrong!” He warned Michael Jackson about this accuser and his family. On cross-examination, the District Attorney Tom Sneddon conducted the cross. And at one point he showed Chris Tucker a blowup of a photograph of Chris with the accuser and his family at a wedding. And Chris, rather humorously, said “I like that picture. Do you know where I can get it?” And everyone kind of chuckled in the courtroom, and the DA said “I’ll get it for you, if you’re a good boy.” Now, the African-American community, as far as I can tell – as I was not watching the media all the time, I was working most of the time, and I would take a break and channel surf to see what I could see – didn’t pick up on this very much. And I was happy. Because, again, coming back to my defense, my belief in what would work, I didn’t want to raise issues of racism in this case. I looked at this jury, I felt this jury, and I didn’t think it could help us. And I had to take a very difficult, and very controversial position at the end of the case because of my belief in what I thought was necessary to save my client, Michael Jackson. The day the jury got the case, I felt very good, I felt our case had gone in very well. And I had told certain people that I don’t want a racial issue here. I don’t want to be identified with a racial issue in this community. I don’t think it’s going to help us. At the beginning of the case, when I was asked by various people associated with Michael Jackson how I thought things were going. I had been very concerned, and let me sort of explain that this way. In November 2003, Neverland was raided by 70 sheriffs. And I was called while I was driving back from Big Sir, California to Los Angeles. I had taken a vacation. And I was asked if I would fly to Las Vegas to meet Michael Jackson because he wanted me to represent him. And I thought about it long and hard, and I declined because I was getting ready to defend actor Robert Blake in his homicide case, which was set for trial in February 2004. I didn’t think I could do justice to both cases. I thought it would just drive both clients crazy if I was not available when they needed me. And Michael’s people were quite surprised that anybody would say no, but I did. When Blake and I had a falling out approximately 10 days before the start of his trial in February 2004, and I withdrew, I got a call about a month and a half later by Randy Jackson, Michael’s brother, who’s been a friend of mine for many years. Would I reconsider and fly to Florida to meet him, and I said I would. I went down, met Michael, flew back, was asked to five or six days later would I come back, and I said would, and I was retained. But what I had seen before I was retained on TV was of great concern to me. You may recall that first arraignment. I was not his lawyer then. First of all, Nation of Islam were providing security for Michael. And they were very prominent in Santa Maria at that first arraignment. Now I’ve worked with the Nation of Islam for many years, and I still do. And I’ve agreed to defend their western regional leader if he is charged with assaulting a police officer, which they are threatening to do, but haven’t done yet. And I am well aware of what Nation of Islam does in the inner city, in Los Angeles. The way they fight gang violence. The way they fight drugs. The way they try and teach people responsibility and spirituality, and they do so much in the city that is the gang capitol of America to try to stop this violence. And I had worked with the Nation of Islam on the Patricia Moore case. They had been great supporters of her. But nevertheless, I did not think that having the Nation of Islam in that prominent position as Michael’s security people in Santa Maria was helping him defend. I felt it was separating him more from the community that was going to judge him, rather than making him a part of the community, that he had chosen to live in, that will judge him. And I made that very clear. This is not a good way to start. I also had seen his lawyers and advisors in a meeting at a Beverly Hills Hotel, a very posh hotel in Los Angeles. They had a meeting, and it was all over the news that all of these fat cats who advise Michael Jackson were at this hotel, assembled to put together a defense. And they used the word “dream team”. And I said to myself as I watched the news “This is wrong. This is not helping Michael in this community. It’s separating Michael from this community.” Emphasize that he’s one of the people around this courthouse. Don’t emphasize that he’s separate, or bigger, or completely different from those people, because he’s not. And I voiced my feelings about that. I looked at it purely in terms of what would help him. Not in terms of what would create a political statement, or the appropriate moral statement. I looked at it as “How do I save the life of Michael Jackson?” And you may recall, if you followed the case, that during the second arraignment, after he was indicted, when I was his lawyer, you didn’t see the Nation of Islam prominent. You had, certainly, some Muslim security, but it wasn’t a prominent thing. And there were no more parties at Neverland, and no more summit meetings in Beverly Hills, and things of that sort. It wasn’t going to help defend Michael.
But at the end of the case, and unfortunately this got some TV coverage, and I’ll just be perfectly honest about it, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who I have a lot of respect for, particularly what he did during the Civil Rights movement, and what he’s done since, did appear and I was upset. And I issued a press release that nobody is speaking for Michael Jackson and the family, and that there’s a gag order, and we will honor it. And I had a talk with the Reverend Jackson, and I explained to him just what I’m explaining to you: “There’s no upside here. To a lot of white people, when they see you, they think there’s a racial divide or a racial issue that you’re coming to expose and to fight against, as you should, but it’s not going to help me with my job right now.” And he did leave. He was there for a couple of days. He understood my goals. He understood my motives. I still have great respect for him, but I didn’t want him there at that time for the reasons that I’ve told you about. Now I was asked if I wanted Al Sharpton to come up to the community, and I suggested that it wouldn’t be a good idea either, and he completely understood. He didn’t think he belonged there either. But, you know, it’s up to the defense attorney to identify these issues for what they are. See them realistically. Don’t hide from what they are, and don’t pretend that our society is something that it’s not. And don’t pretend that the community where you’re trying the case is something that it’s not. Be aware of what it is, and adjust your defense accordingly. And that is what I was trying to do. Fortunately we succeeded, and I absolutely believed that justice was done.
I know we have a lot of students here who are studying trial tactics. Let me say a couple of things about trial tactics because I did pursue some unorthodox trial tactics in the case for which I was criticized until the verdicts. And I’ll just summarize them very, very quickly. A trial is an exercise in people. If you don’t understand people, then you’re not as equipped to try a case as you could be. You don’t learn about people in law school. You really don’t. In fact, you learn in law school, in my opinion, that everything is an intellectual exercise. And it’s not. I think the best trial lawyers understand what happens in their heart and their soul as much as what happens in their intellect. And if you’re going to communicate with people who didn’t go to law school, didn’t go to college, and come from different walks of life. Some highly educated, and some not. Whoever they may be, you have to learn that there is a lot more to human nature than your intellect. And you have to learn what makes people tick. You have to learn who is the type of person who typically resonates with you, as the trial lawyer, and you only learn that with experience. And you have to learn about people’s intuitions, their instincts, their field. Everything is not intellectual, trust me. And I really think that law schools do a disservice when they don’t train trial lawyers to be good people. I often talk about the value of pro bono work because I thoroughly believe in it, and I do it. And a lot of law students look at me like “What is he talking about? I’m in debt. I’m struggling. I can’t pay the rent. I want a new car. This big job has been offered to me. Are you nuts?” And, I can’t tell anybody how to live their life. Only you can figure out what works for you. And we can’t do everything in our short lives. We have to balance things out as best we can. But I will say this: ever since I was in law school, every study I’ve shown about lawyer satisfaction is alarming. Every study that I’ve seen indicates that the vast majority of lawyers are not happy in their work. And they seem to accept that as unchangeable. And what I’ve observed is pretty much the following: I’ve seen lawyers, particularly smart ones from good schools, with good academic backgrounds, take very prestigious jobs. And after the allure rubs off, they’re unhappy, and they move on to another prestigious job. And then they move to another prestigious job. And it never dawns on them that they’re changing jobs, without changing them at all. And many of them just eventually settle for making a tremendous amount of money at a prestige institution, and they’re not terribly satisfied. They’ll be some other adjustments more radical than that. You’ll see lawyers go to the US Attorney’s office, where everybody has pretty much of an elitist attitude about what they’re doing, and then they’ll jump from a prestige firm to a US Attorney’s office, and then back to a prestige firm, and you’ll get them at a bar one night having a third or fourth drink and they’ll say “I don’t like what I do!” But they’re not going to change; they’re on a treadmill.
Well, there’s a lawyer who passed away ten years ago named William Kunstler, and he wrote a wonderful book called “My Life As A Radical Lawyer”, which he published a year before his death in 1994. And I would urge everyone to read it. It’s a fascinating book. Now, he liked to embellish the myth of who Bill Kunstler was, and he was known to exaggerate a little bit, as the co-author says in her introduction. But nevertheless, he’s a guy who did everything “right”. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, majored in French, and later taught at Yale. He had a distinguished World War II record. He went to Columbia Law School. He formed a firm with his brother in downtown Manhattan. He bought a nice home in Westchester, and was doing everything right, except that none of it felt very satisfying to him. And someone from the ACLU called him one day and said to him “We have a Civil Rights case in the Deep South. Would you help us out with it?” And he said he would, and he began to work with Martin Luther King Jr. in the south, and he just became enmeshed in the Civil Rights movement in the south. He became nationally famous in the “Chicago 7” trial in the late 60’s which had to do with whether or not the defendants incited a riot out in front of the Democratic National Convention in ‘68. He decided to devote his career to defending pariahs, people who nobody else would touch. He almost relished in the idea of defending people who seemed defenseless. At the end of his life, he began to focus his attention more on Arab-Americans who he thought, in light of the 1993 bombing in New York, were now becoming the real target class for racism and injustice and bigotry. And by all accounts he lived a very colorful, exciting, satisfying life as a lawyer. A couple of years after he died, a law professor in Alabama wrote a book called “William Kunstler”: The Most Hated Lawyer in America”. And he analyzed his life, from his perspective, and really came to the conclusion that this was a satisfied lawyer. This was a lawyer who felt he had made a difference, who had affected society, who had found satisfaction in his work. Who felt that he had taken his law degree and had really done something meaningful. Had made the justice system work where it wouldn’t have worked at all. I was talking to Professor Ogletree earlier today about a famous trial lawyer from Chicago lived much earlier than William Kunstler, named Clarence Darrow, who many of you may have heard about. Well, Clarence Darrow at one point in his career was doing everything right. He was corporation counsel for the city of Chicago, which at the time was thought to be a great springboard to fame and fortune. He was general counsel of a railroad in Illinois, which was also portrayed to be the same. But it just wasn’t enough. And he began to represent labor unions at a time when people associated with labor unions were considered criminals. They were considered to be criminal organizations, much like the mafia at a later time. He found great satisfaction doing pro bono work. He made a tremendous impact on society, and by all accounts was a very, very stimulated and fulfilled lawyer. Doing all of the right things doesn’t always make you happy and fulfilled. It might for a while. Or maybe it will your whole life. But if it does, do it with relish, but if it doesn’t, do be afraid to do something else. I can talk for hours about all of this because I chose a life like this. I had to finally conclude at one point that I’m basically a misfit and a renegade, and I don’t fit in to these great places that everyone gravitates to. I tried them, but it just didn’t work for me. And I love pro bono work. I just love making an impact. When you acquit someone in a homicide case, who never would have had a chance, who was innocent, who has no resources, there’s no better feeling then when you see what it’s done to that person and their family. And even if you represent someone who looks guilty, to make the system work, and to make these arrogant prosecutors not abuse the law, not abuse the facts, and not take advantage of people who appear defenseless, is a wonderful feeling. And I’m not saying that all prosecutors are like that, as we obviously have one of our finest here! (Points to DA Martha Coakley.) But some are! And police abuse their powers and their responsibilities too, and exposing them and making this system the best system in the world is a very satisfying thing to do.
Finally, on trial tactics, we are taught traditions, as trial lawyers. They are passed on from generation to generation. And most trial lawyers don’t either the time or the interest to put them under a microscope and say to themselves “Is this going to work in this case?” They simply do what they were taught to do. And I’ll give you an example: in my opening statement in the Michael Jackson case, I did something that is heresy to so many criminal defense lawyers. And that is, as we all know, there is a presumption of innocence in a case. The prosecution has a burden of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, and the defense doesn’t have a burden of proving anything. That all sounds delightful. What does it mean in a courtroom? Well, here’s what I think it means, and here’s what I thought it meant in the Jackson case. First of all, I think jurors think that lawyers know what the truth is, whether we do or not. Second of all, they want to know what the truth is. And I believe that when a defense attorney gets up in an opening statement and looks to the jury and says “My client is presumed innocent, they have the burden of proof, you’ll have reasonable doubt at the end of a case”, I think the typical juror looks at that defense attorney and says “His client’s guilty! He just thinks he can stop them from proving it!” That’s what I believe. Walking into the Jackson trial, I fervently believed that we had the truth on our side, we had the evidence on our side, and we were in the right. And I saw no reason not to flaunt that; I saw no reason not to hit the prosecutors over the head with it. And I got up in my opening statement, and I said “I’m going to make promises to you. I’m going to make contracts with you. I’m going to prove this man is innocent.” I never mentioned the burden of proof. I never mentioned reasonable doubt. I had a reason not to do that. And that is, I wanted to be the bearer of truth, not them. I did not want to look like someone who was playing with technicalities. Let them look like it. And I felt that we got the momentum, right in our opening statement. I felt we never let up, and I think that is why he was exonerated to the extent he was.
You’re taught cross-examination in law school. You’re taught “don’t ask open ended questions. Don’t ask a how question. Don’t ask a why question. You’re inviting an avalanche of horribles if you do that.” Well, I think you need to start off by following that principal. But if you follow that principal your whole career, you’ll never be a great cross-examiner. Because you can’t be a great cross examiner unless at some point you start taking those risks, taking those chances. You have to reach a point where your instincts tell you “this is where I can do it, and this is where I can’t.” Following the Robert Blake preliminary hearing, which was televised for three weeks, I had some Court TV reporters tell me “We haven’t seen someone ask so many open ended questions as you! But you always seem to make it work in your direction!” And it’s something I had to work at for a long time, because I was taught exactly what you’re being taught. Now you can’t be afraid of your case, especially if you have the truth with you. Don’t be afraid of your case. Don’t walk on eggshells like so many defense attorneys do. Many people say that I should have rested when the prosecution rested in the Michael Jackson case. Because our cross examination had been so effective. And I’ll tell you, if I had rested, then I think we would have at least have gotten a hang. I don’t think we would have necessarily have gotten a “Not Guilty”. And I felt that if we would have gotten a “hang”, it would have made me famous, because everybody thought that you can’t win the case. They’d say “He’s very good; he hung the jury in this big case, just like Leslie Abrahmson did in that first Menendez trial”. It would have been probably great for me. What would it have done to my client? First of all, the prosecutors would have retried the case, and corrected a lot of the mistakes that they made. The judge may have changed some rulings that I thought I could have used to our advantage. I didn’t think Michael Jackson’s life would be saved by resting when they rested. Now when you put on your own case you run risks because your witnesses are subject to cross exanimation, but again I felt we had the truth. I felt we had the evidence. So I did not rest. We put on fifty witnesses, they put on ninety. And we got the result we got. Anything you’re taught, at some point, has to be put under a microscope. I remember in law school, and I still can’t believe this, and I still can’t believe anybody was teaching me this stuff. They would say “Just make your points, and sum them up at the end.” That is insanity! People are always making up their minds. And they make up their mind quickly. And many human beings are stubborn, and they cling to whatever conclusions that they have reached. You’ve got to be selling your message from Day One. You’ve got to do it powerfully. Questions have to tell your story. You can’t just wait to tie it all together at the end. And don’t assume that jurors are thinking what you’re thinking; you’ve got to really, really hit them over the head with your message. And essentially you’ve got to give an opening statement in your opening statement, in your cross examination, in your direct examination, and in your closing. There are four times to tell your story. Don’t think cross examination is only to discredit a witness; it’s there to tell your story. And how you discredit a witness depends very much on what you think of that witness. Because there are some witnesses that you have a great feeling that they’re great actors, they’re sociopaths, they’re psychopaths, whatever they are. But you know that the longer they’re up there, the more they’re going to expose themselves. And they might expose themselves in a split second. But they will do it. And sometimes it helps you to have a witness on for days. Now I was criticized for over-trying my case. One night I was channel surfing, and here’s somebody, frankly – I think he was in Boston – saying “I think he’s over-trying his case!” The guy never set foot in the courtroom or saw anything. But there I was over-trying my case. Well, I assume what he meant was “Why would he have a witness on this long?” Because there were witnesses that the prosecutions were relying on that I truly concluded that the longer they’re up, the worse it’s gonna be. Even if you’re talking about small stuff, stuff that doesn’t seem consequential, that’s not the point. The point is let the jury look into their heart and soul. Let them see who this person is, and let them see what a liar and a fraud they are. Keep ‘em up. Keep ‘em up. Keep ‘em up.
Finally, the media: I’ve been attacking the media ever since the verdicts. There is no one I respect more than a professional journalist who follows a code of ethics. Who has professional values. This is the kind of journalist who, when they’re reporting on what’s happening in the courtroom, they never give you the impression that they have a stake in the outcome. If they report on a verdict, you never know what they really think personally, because they’re professionals. We had them in this case. We had Linda Deutche from the Associated Press. We had Mike Tiabbi from NBC. These are professionals. Dawn Hobbs from the Santa Barbara News Press. We also had a bunch of clowns, OK! I call them tabloid reporters. I don’t call them journalists. You shouldn’t dignify them with that title. People from Court TV, people from some of the cable stations, people who were screaming and yelling when they never set foot in a courtroom, people who tried to make you think that they knew what was going on, former prosecutors and defense attorneys in New York who never set foot in the courtroom who were passionately telling you about the significance or insignificance of a witness or a piece of evidence just to be seen on camera. And the reporting was dreadful, by and large, dreadful. Keep this in mind; the media’s priorities are completely different than those who participate in a trial. They are not under oath. They have no responsibility for what happens to the defendant in court, or the victim, if there’s a victim, or the family of the victim, or the family of the defendant. They are never going to blame themselves for whatever the outcome is. There are very few court orders they have to follow. There may be orders that they have to sit in a certain place, or park in a certain place, but that’s about it. And the only things they care about are ratings and money. It could be the most boring day ever in a courtroom, and you’ll turn on the TV and they’ll talk about how exciting and dramatic it was that day. Because they’re trying to capture their audience, and they want to continue to capture their audience, it’s all business. And usually when they predict the outcome in a high profile case, they are wrong! In Menendez 1 they said it would be “guilty”, and it was hung. In OJ Simpson they said it would be “guilty” and it was an acquittal. In Robert Blake they said it would be “guilty” and it was an acquittal. In Scott Peterson they said that it would be “not guilty” or a “hung”, and it was “guilty” and a death verdict. And in Michael Jackson, the overwhelming consensus in the media is that it would be a conviction, and it was fourteen “not guilty’s”. The cases are won in the courtroom; they’re not won outside the courtroom. You have to be concerned with the media. You like good things said about your client, but if you spend too much time on what’s happening with the media, and detract from your preparation to win in front of those twelve jurors, you’re probably going to end up very disappointed. The cases are won inside the courtroom. Generally speaking, American juries are very honorable, very hardworking, they take their job seriously, and in my opinion, are not affected by the media. Now there are lawyers out there promoting themselves as “jury shapers”, and “media experts” and all this, and I don’t buy it. You want someone who knows how to try a case, and focuses on trying that case. Nothing else. Yes, yes, if you can get someone out there that will and try and balance some bad reporting, fine. It’s better to have some good information about your client than bad. But don’t dilute yourself into thinking “That wins the case!” I think in the Scott Peterson trial, the defense won the battle of spin, and they lost the courtroom battle. You had all of this fabulous reporting about how bad the prosecutors were, how great the defense was, how you had a murder case with no eyewitness, no forensics, blah, blah, blah, and it turned out to be a very powerful, circumstantial case that was won in the courtroom. Now I was not there, so I can’t tell you how good or bad anybody was. All I can tell you is that I saw some great press reporting on what was going to happen in that case, and you saw the results. I’d rather get skewered in the press and win the trial. But I think the temptation, the lure by the media, is to think that’s where the case is being won. And it’s easy for a lawyer to forget who’s really most important. Not the lawyer and their reputation in the media, but the client’s welfare, and the verdict that’s most important.
I may have talked longer than I should have, but thank you very much!
Charles Ogletree: Thank you very much Tom. And you mention the media, and of course we have a media rebuttal. Dan Abrahms joins us from a local studio where he taped his program tonight, as I said, before he was the face of journalism on cases like the Scott Peterson case and the Michael Jackson case, a lawyer and a journalist and someone who has given critical and insightful perspectives on it in his point of view having watched the Jackson case very carefully and reporting on it and other cases of the 21st century. Please welcome Dan Abrahms!
1. And what we saw throughout was a very much under control, measured, confident, one of the few lawyers who said over and over, not his client is “not guilty”, but “My client is innocent”, which is a very important and bold statement that he made over and over again. This is indicative of Mesereau’s complete and total belief in MJ’s 100% innocence of the allegations. He went in there to prove innocence, and not to try to manufacture a not guilty verdict based on reasonable doubt. Mesereau was so confident in MJ’s innocence that he switched churches when the pastor of his original church refused to allow the church kids to visit Neverland after MJ was arrested! And not only did he switch churches, but he also transferred his free legal clinic from that original church as well! There was also the time when he gave an interview after the trial, and the interviewer asked him if he would leave his kids alone with MJ, and Mesereau threatened to cancel the interview right then and there! For more information on these two instances of Mesereau defending MJ, please read this post.
2. “They had taken a fellow from Las Vegas, an African-American male, who was trying to gain favors with the government, who had a conviction, and they arranged for him to essentially become her boyfriend. And he approached her at her office with flowers, and he told her that he was the President of a business development company that could give her a tremendous career boost.” This is absolutely pathetic! The prosecutors were so desperate to entrap Patricia Moore that they arranged for someone to be her “boyfriend” and “date” her in order to put her in a compromising position? Like I said earlier, this is something that you would expect to happen during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, not in the 1990’s!!
3. “If you listen to the media, you would have to conclude that this jury was composed of white rednecks who were ready to string up Michael Jackson without a trial. That’s what you’d have to conclude. And it was absolutely false.” & “Michael Jackson was extremely popular in that community. White people, Latino people, young people, middle-aged, old, children, loved Michael Jackson. He was “their” celebrity.” These two quotes are entirely representative of the attitude of the majority of people who lived in MJ’s community. Mesereau was so confident in MJ’s complete innocence, and in the ability of potential jurors to judge the case based on the evidence (or lack thereof), and not on their biases and prejudices. Because of this, Mesereau rejected the suggestions of many outsiders that he should request a change of venue and move the trial to another county.
4. And I have since spoken to someone who was on that grand jury quite recently, from Los Angeles. She was on a Los Angeles grand jury that was convened at the same time, and they had real problems with these accusations. And real problems with a sense that people were trying to get money out of Michael Jackson by generating these charges. So he failed to get an indictment in the early 90s. So in the mid-90s, the District Attorney flew to Australia and Canada – they’re the only countries that I know that he went to, he may have gone to others – looking for “victims” of Michael Jackson. He failed!” Well, the grand juror’s explanation for her refusal to indict MJ in 1994 is pretty much self-explanatory, so there’s no need to rehash it here. We know about all of the people who testified against MJ in 1994 –the Neverland 5, the Hayvenhurst 5, Blanca & Jason Francia, and a myriad other nobodies. Know, we’ve known for years that Sneddon has flown all over the world on the taxpayer’s dime, looking for other “victims” of MJ, but we thought it was only to the Philippines (to interview the Quindoys about their knowledge of MJ) and Australia (to interview the Robsons and Barnes’ in an attempt to elicit an accusation). Little did we know that Sneddon also made a trip to Canada! Who do you think he went there to interview? Let’s take a wild guess…………….could it be that street kid who was under the tutelage of Rodney Allen? I would certainly assume so! This tidbit of information provided by Mesereau certainly adds credibility to the belief that Sneddon, Dimond, and Allen conspired to set up MJ with that phony baloney accusation, only to have it blow up in their face when the professional and unprejudiced Canadian police department stopped their plans in its tracks!
5. “I told people who I had the ability to talk to about the issue, that to African-American people Michael Jackson is black. He is black. If you ask him what his race is, it’s black. But to a lot of white people Michael Jackson transcends race. He brings people together.” Yes Mesereau, Michael Jackson most certainly brings people of all races together! Here are several examples of MJ uniting people: here is footage from various “World Cry” events from June 25th, 2010 where people of all backgrounds gathered in different countries to sing “Cry” from the “Invincible” album.
6. “Turn on the TV at night and look at people who are stranger than Michael Jackson.” Yes, there are plenty of people who are stranger than MJ! It’s not fair that MJ gets ridiculed for being “weird”, yet these other so-called celebrities and politicians get caught doing things that are much worse! You have so many athletes, celebrities, and politicians who cheat on their wives (like Tiger Woods, Democratic Pres. Bill Clinton, and Republican Senator David Vitter), threaten to kill their girlfriends (Mel Gibson), cheat on their taxes (Wesley Snipes), drive drunk (Paris Hilton ), get into fights at strip clubs (Adam “Pac-Man” Jones), go in and out of drug rehab (Lindsay Lohan), kill innocent dogs (Michael Vick), rape teenage girls (Roman Polanski), sire numerous illegitimate children by multiple women and not pay child support (NY Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie and imprisoned Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry) and a myriad of other acts of immoral behavior, yet MJ is the one that gets labeled “weird”?
7. “Now, I didn’t raise a racial issue. I didn’t think he was prosecuted because of his race, I thought he was prosecuted because he’s a mega-celebrity!” I’m glad that Mesereau said this, because it shows that he didn’t play any “race card”, and if he would have brought up the issue of race, it would have been because he legitimately thought that race was a factor in MJ’s malicious prosecution, just as he did in the cases of Patricia Moore and Larry Carol. In fact, there was a moment where Mesereau could have interjected race into the trial (when Sneddon called MJ’s friend Chris Tucker a “boy”), but chose not to because the case was so lopsided in his favor! And it’s a shame that if Mesereau had legitimately thought that race was an issue, and had brought it up, he would have been immediately smeared as “playing the race card” to acquit MJ, and the media would have immediately undermined this tactic by portraying MJ as a black man who “wants to be white” (something that was brought up during the Q & A session later on.)
But to show that Mesereau clearly knows when to legitimately bring up the issue of race, here he is speaking on the racially charged “Jena 6” case, in which……
8. And Chris, rather humorously, said “I like that picture. Do you know where I can get it?” And everyone kind of chuckled in the courtroom, and the DA said “I’ll get it for you, if you’re a good boy.” Here is a video of Mesereau and Aphrodite Jones discussing this incident, beginning at 3:38. And be sure to check out that Polaroid photo of MJ at 3:52! Look at his left arm!
9. “And even if you represent someone who looks guilty, to make the system work, and to make these arrogant prosecutors not abuse the law, not abuse the facts, and not take advantage of people who appear defenseless, is a wonderful feeling. And I’m not saying that all prosecutors are like that, as we obviously have one of our finest here! (Points to DA Martha Coakley.) But some are! And police abuse their powers and their responsibilities too, and exposing them and making this system the best system in the world is a very satisfying thing to do.” Once again, Mesereau is on point! He can’t be any blunter than this! The U.S. Justice System is the finest in the world due to all of the protections guaranteed against people who are accused of a crime, but the problem is the people who run the justice system, and the cops who are supposed to “uphold” the law, that create so many problems! When you use a trial to throw in innocent person in jail in order to boost your political stature, or gain fame and notoriety, or to acquire a six-figure book deal, or to get revenge against an enemy, than you are eroding the basic fabric of what America stands for!
10. “And I believe that when a defense attorney gets up in an opening statement and looks to the jury and says “My client is presumed innocent, they have the burden of proof, you’ll have reasonable doubt at the end of a case”, I think the typical juror looks at that defense attorney and says “His client’s guilty! He just thinks he can stop them from proving it!” That’s what I believe.” & “I never mentioned the burden of proof. I never mentioned reasonable doubt. I had a reason not to do that.” This completely coincides with what I wrote in Bullet Point #1 above. Mesereau did not win this case because of a legal technicality, or because of “reasonable doubt” (actually, it was damn near 100% doubt!!) or because Sneddon bungled the case, or because the jurors were star struck, or because he went into the courtroom and said “Hocus Pocus” and cast a spell on the jurors; he won the case because Michael Jackson was INNOCENT!!
11. “And many human beings are stubborn, and they cling to whatever conclusions that they have reached.” Mesereau just hit the nail on the head! This mentality is EXACTLY why so many thought MJ was guilty before the trial. He was weird, he was a freak, he bleached his skin, he slept in a hyperbaric chamber in order to live to be 150 years old, he “paid off” the Chandlers in 1993, he dangled his baby from a balcony, and let kids sleep in his bed, so therefore he was automatically guilty in 2003, and because of that foregone conclusion, many people didn’t bother to keep up with the facts of the trial. That mentality exists to this day in the minds of Diane Dimond, Andrea Peyser, Kelvin Mackenzie, Maureen Orth, Bill O’Reilly, and their ilk, despite the overwhelming amount of exculpatory evidence.
12. “And essentially you’ve got to give an opening statement in your opening statement, in your cross examination, in your direct examination, and in your closing. There are four times to tell your story. Don’t think cross examination is only to discredit a witness; it’s there to tell your story. And how you discredit a witness depends very much on what you think of that witness.” There is no better example of this than his cross examination of Martin Bashir. Here is a small sample of the simple, straightforward questions he asked Bashir, and that he declined to answer due to the California Shield Law. The answer to each question is “Yes!”, except for the last one! For more info on Mesereau’s opening statement and cross examination of Bashir, read this post:
Mr. Bashir, you interviewed Mr. Jackson and repeatedly asked him questions about his desire for an international children’s holiday, correct?
Mr. Bashir, you had Michael Jackson sign an agreement without a lawyer present, true?
Mr. Bashir, you have been accused in England11 of forging signatures, correct?
Mr. Bashir, if you look at the two documents you referred to that you say Mr. Jackson signed, his signature appears to be different from document to document, correct?
Mr. Bashir, did you request that Michael Jackson bring Macauley Culkin so you could film him at Neverland?
Mr. Bashir, in the show about Michael Jackson, Mr. Jackson says that nothing sexual went on in his bedroom. To obtain that statement, you told Mr. Jackson that your romantic development was partially shaped by his records, true?
Mr. Bashir, did you allow Mr. Jackson any editorial control over this film? (No, he did not!!!)
13. “Because there were witnesses that the prosecutions were relying on that I truly concluded that the longer they’re up, the worse it’s gonna be. Even if you’re talking about small stuff, stuff that doesn’t seem consequential, that’s not the point. The point is let the jury look into their heart and soul. Let them see who this person is, and let them see what a liar and a fraud they are. Keep ‘em up. Keep ‘em up. Keep ‘em up.” Another great technique used by the great Mesereau. Just plain and simple, give these liars a rope and watch them hang themselves! The best example of this is the so-called “testimony” by Janet Arvizo, which is so laughable that it is more appropriate for a stand-up comedy blog than for an investigative blog such as ours! He let Janet just ramble and ramble and ramble for hhours about her “kidnapping”, and wanting to escape Neverland through a “hot air balloon”, and Michael being “the devil”, etc.
14. “We also had a bunch of clowns, OK! I call them tabloid reporters. I don’t call them journalists. You shouldn’t dignify them with that title. People from Court TV, people from some of the cable stations, people who were screaming and yelling when they never set foot in a courtroom, people who tried to make you think that they knew what was going on, former prosecutors and defense attorneys in New York who never set foot in the courtroom who were passionately telling you about the significance or insignificance of a witness or a piece of evidence just to be seen on camera.” There isn’t much I need to say about this comment that you guys don’t already know, but it’s very ironic that District Attorney Martha Coakley pretty much said the same thing about Court TV, although not with as much detail. But nevertheless, she made her point, and you’ll see it later on in this series.