Daily Journal: Mesereau Considers Life After Jackson Trial

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[b]DAILY JOURNAL: Mesereau Considers Life After Jackson Trial[/b] Created: Saturday, 09 July 2005 DAILY JOURNAL NEWSWIRE ARTICLE [url]http://www.dailyjournal.com[/url] // MJJSOURCE.COM By David Houston July 07, 2005 LOS ANGELES – Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. walked Michael Jackson out the front door of the Santa Maria Courthouse in June and instantaneously became one of the best-known criminal defense attorneys in the nation. Reporters from London to Osaka, Japan, wrote gushing profiles of the 55-year-old, silver-maned college boxer. Mesereau demanded – and got – Jay Leno to suspend Michael Jackson jokes for the night before the lawyer agreed to appear on “The Tonight Show.” Although Mesereau previously defended Mike Tyson and Robert Blake in criminal matters, the attorney built his legal career in Los Angeles defending local no-names, most of whom couldn’t afford to pay a dime for their defense. He helped found a legal clinic at the First AME Church in South Los Angeles and annually spends his own money to defend a capital murder case in the Deep South. Mesereau sat down with Daily Journal City Editor David Houston and reporter Erin Park last week to reflect on Jackson’s case and how it might change his life and practice. After a much-needed vacation, Mesereau plans to leave his practice, Collins, Mesereau, Reddock & Yu, to start a new practice with his sidekick in the Blake and Jackson cases, Susan Yu, that will handle a mix of criminal defense and civil work. But first, he had scores to settle, with reporters, prosecutors and even his own pastor. He especially wanted to register disgust with other lawyers he believes feast off the carcasses of their big-name clients. Here’s some of what he had to say: Q: Do you think your newfound fame will change you? A: I hope it doesn’t change me in any substantial way. Frankly, I don’t want to be known as a celebrity lawyer, and I don’t want to be known as a Hollywood lawyer. I want to be known as a civil rights lawyer who fights for justice. [But] there are certainly benefits to being well-known; there are also liabilities. Q: What are the benefits? A: You’re probably going to have a larger client base to draw from. Q: And the liabilities? A: Invasion of privacy. Don’t get me wrong. I feel very blessed that I was in the case. I feel very blessed that we won the case. I feel very blessed to be a friend of Michael Jackson and his family. Q: Are you recognized now at grocery stores and the mall? A: I am. Q: Do people approach you? A: Some people do. Most do not. It hasn’t been terrible. It’s not like throngs that are rushing up to see me. Q: It’s been reported you got $10 million to do this case. A: I’m not going to talk about legal fees and what the costs of the defense were. Q: Well, you clearly got a big payday. Do you think your lifestyle is going to change? A: I don’t know the answer to that. It’s all too new. Q: You’ve haven’t been shopping for houses in Beverly Hills? A: I really haven’t. Q: Will you still go to Alabama? A: I will still go to the Deep South every year and do a death-penalty case. In fact, at the moment, I’m talking to one of my lawyer friends in Alabama about what the next one will be. I do intend to continue to work at the First AME free legal clinic two Sundays a month, although I will not be attending that church anymore because the current pastor [the Rev. Dr. John Joseph Hunter] did not support my efforts in the defense of Michael Jackson. Q: Have you lost other friends because of your defense of Jackson? A: Clearly, it has changed my life, and I’m not even aware of some of the ways it has. Clearly, people get jealous. Clearly, people when they see the perception of fame or fortune will sometimes do things that they normally wouldn’t do. That just happens to be a fact of life. Q: What’s next? A: I’ve been swamped with calls, obviously. I’m not returning most of them. I’m really not interested in taking any cases at the moment. I really want to just take a break and just relax a little bit. This was a pretty stressful event. Q: Criminal defense lawyers spend so much of their careers scratching for clients, most of whom can’t pay their legal fees. When, suddenly, you get a client who can pay and pay well, how can you not become addicted to that? You want to make a living? A: Sure. I want paying clients. And if paying clients come in, I’ll feel very grateful and very blessed. But I also have a great love for civil rights work. Q: Johnnie Cochran used his O.J. fame to build a nationwide plaintiffs’ practice. Is that something you might do? A: It’s all so recent and so filled with ups and downs, emotionally, that I don’t know how to answer the question. Q: What’s your opinion of the media’s coverage of the case? A: It was the most inaccurate – in many ways, unprofessional – media coverage of a case I’ve ever seen. A lot of people ended up humiliated because they really didn’t know what was going on, factually, or how to interpret what was happening in the courtroom. Q: Was there one thing that stood out to you that you couldn’t believe the media didn’t pick up on or got wrong? A: Not just one thing – so many things. When I heard there was a jury verdict, although I was certainly nervous, as you would be with any jury, I was extremely confident that they were all not guilty. I never imaged 12 people on this jury convicting him of any of these counts. Q: Do you think the trial would have gone differently if it had been televised like the O.J. Simpson case? A: I think you would have probably had more accurate reporting. People would have been able to see what witnesses actually said and didn’t say and how they looked. Q: You previously expressed disgust with lawyers you believe put their own interests ahead of their famous client’s. Did this trial change how you feel about them? A: I will always have a little bit of disdain for lawyers who do this. I think it demeans the profession, I think it hurts their clients, and I think it’s bad for the system in general. … Lawyers when thrust in front of cameras have a tendency to think that they’re the important person and not the client. They have a tendency to become publicity hounds and media freaks. Q: You were the butt of jokes on late-night TV, and Vanity Fair published unkind things about your girlfriend, the actress Minnie Fox. Were you aware of those things, and did it bother you? A: My typical schedule in trial is to go to bed around 8 o’clock and I get up at 3 in the morning. I like to do three to three and a half hours of work before I enter a courtroom. So I was very unaware of what was happening late at night on television. I did hear that Jay Leno’s jokes were very troubling and unfair to Michael Jackson and his family… The Vanity Fair article does not surprise me, because the prosecution was perhaps the most mean-spirited prosecution I’ve ever experienced. The relentless attempt to degrade and dehumanize and belittle Michael Jackson was in many ways very regrettable for our legal system and for prosecutors in general. The author of the Vanity Fair article was 100 percent in the prosecution’s camp. She sat on the prosecution’s side in the courtroom whenever she could, and from what I could gather, she had made a career out of saying unkind things about Mr. Jackson. So the fact that she would try to influence the jury while they were deliberating by saying unkind things about me or my girlfriend did not surprise me in the least. Q: Celebrities are used to getting their way. Was it hard to keep Michael Jackson in line? A: Michael Jackson himself was the easiest, most delightful client I’ve ever dealt with. He’s a very gentle, kindhearted person. He’s very, very honest and open and down to earth. He’s willing to listen. The problem was there were so many other voices around him who were trying to get their say. Q: Were these family members? A: I don’t want to comment on who was trying to get their opinions heard and understood. But clearly, throughout the trial, various individuals were trying to make the client feel as if they were necessary, and they were trying their best to have some influence over the defense. That caused enormous complications for me. Q: Was Jesse Jackson’s arrival in Santa Maria and statements he made to reporters what prompted you to go to the courthouse during jury deliberations and hold that very odd news conference to say that nobody speaks for Michael Jackson but you? A: I didn’t hold a news conference. What I did was issue a press release. I don’t want to go into detail on that issue, but I will say this: I never raised a racial issue in this defense. I never thought a racial issue was appropriate in this defense. I truly felt that Michael Jackson is a person who has many gifts, one of which is that he brings people of all races together, that he has a personality and persona that almost transcends race. I never did want there to be a perception that we were calling this a racist prosecution, because I never thought it was. I thought it was a mean-spirited, nasty prosecution that was very malicious and very unfair to Mr. Jackson. But I always felt it was primarily at his being a megacelebrity rather than his race. Q: What about his being perceived as a freak? Do you think that had something to do with the prosecution’s motives? And did you feel that you had to do something to overcome that with the jurors? A: I never had any concerns about this jury understanding who Michael is. And I never had any concerns about this alleged perception that he’s weird. I think the prosecutors in a very narrow-minded, shallow way thought that perceptions of Mr. Jackson’s weirdness would inure to their benefit. Q: After the trial was over, did you sit down with Michael Jackson and explain to him that he should stop sleeping with boys? A: I’m not going to talk about conversations I’ve had with him. I can just tell you that Michael Jackson is extraordinary compassionate and charitable with people in need. Source: [url]http://mjjsource.com/main/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=637&Itemid=32[/url] Your comments?

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