Part 2: Astonishing Jackson Trial Discussion w/ Mesereau – MB#290

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Part 2: Astonishing Jackson Trial Discussion w/ Mesereau – MB#290 Part 2 | Part 1 DECEMBER 7 2005 — Discussed in Part 1 of this special MJEOL Bullet was attorney Thomas Mesereau’s comments at Nov 29 2005 Harvard Law School discussion panel about the Michael Jackson trial. Aside from his stunning information about the 1993 accuser, he also criticized the media coverage of the trial. The criticism was not taken well by the rather peevish TV host Dan Abrams (MSNBC). When he wasn’t rocking back and forth in his chair as if dispensing the wisdom of the universe, he was making some of the most asinine comments I have ever heard, probably spurred by the way Mesereau blasted the press in general. Had the media accurately and thoroughly covered this trial there wouldn’t have been a need for the MJEOL Bullets which you, dear reader, have been reading since the Nov 18 2003 invasion of Neverland. Mesereau got on the media’s proverbial asses about the way they jumped off the cliff in covering Jackson. They had terminal episodes of group-think which left many courtroom observers scratching their heads. For example, the general consensus in the media covering the 1108 “evidence” was that all the 3rd-party people making allegations against Jackson “couldn’t all be lying”. Well, yes, they were all lying, as Mesereau so thoroughly proved during his cross-examination and during the defense’s case. These 3rd party witnesses were also found to have been lying by another Santa Maria civil jury in a previous lawsuit filed in the 90s against Jackson alleging “wrongful termination”. But it seems the media could only process one issue at a time. The reaction by some in the media was to suggest this pile of crap was going to “bury” Jackson. Well that, and the fact that everything had to make him look guilty; even these ridiculous allegations from proven liars. Fortunately, most jury members were wearing their thigh high boots to wade through all of this nonsense. Mesereau is well within his right to criticize the media coverage. It was simply god-awful. And that’s not just my opinion. Long time viewers of Court TV, for example, were embarrassed at the way the various hosts covered the “case”. I remember Court TV host Jami Floyd having to point out, in an on-air reprimand to her colleagues, that a person is innocent until proven otherwise. From her Court TV show on March 2 2005:

JAMI FLOYD: … Before were begin, I want to take just a moment to reacquaint us all with a little something called the Constitution. It’s only the 3rd day of Jackson’s case, but you would think he’d already been convicted by too many of my so-called journalist colleagues. Shame on you! Please people let’s remember the presumption of innocence. Now, here’s the Constitution I read. Annotated and everything – cases, all the big ones. But if you don’t want to read all of that, you can get a little pocket version like this. Put it in your pocket and you can check with it every time you get tripped up on the air. (Court TV, March 2 2005)

Ouch! Anyone reading/listening to her quote who wants to cite Floyd’s admonishment as proof that the media were fair to Jackson should rethink their position. If the media were so “fair” to Jackson, then she wouldn’t have had to make such an on-air admonishment in the first place. Thus, her statement isn’t proof of anything other than someone who got frustrated at the mob mentality of the Jackson coverage very early on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas Mesereau agreed with the sentiment. This dovetails back into the panel discussion on Nov 29 2005. Mesereau called the coverage “dreadful”. And, yes, it was dreadful. I’d never seen so much terrible coverage. Maybe, by having access to the courtroom transcripts, we were in a better position to notice the difference between what was said in court and the way in which the media covered it. Mesereau named 3 reporters who, he says, stood out because they were professional regardless of how they felt about the case: Linda Deutsch, Mike Taibbi, and Dawn Hobbs. Although, I could argue that a few of Taibbi’s TV appearances during the defense’s case were rather ridiculous — he sunk into the group-think mentality concerning Jackson’s old habit of letting kids sleep in his bed a decade ago. But being someone who can recognize a reporter’s bias against Jackson, I admit that I still to this day have no idea how Deutsch or Hobbs feels about Jackson or the “case”, even though they covered it extensively. And that is the way it should be with people who call themselves journalists. Now, the commentators and columnists were another story altogether. Mesereau had a few choice words about that crowd. From his appearance:

MESEREAU: …We also had a bunch of clowns. Okay. 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 the courtroom trying to make you think they knew what was going on. (Harvard U, Nov 29)

In the “clowns” category, personally, I’d put Nancy Grace, Lisa Bloom, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Bill O’Reilly, John Gibson, Catherine Crier, Sean Hannity and Greg Jarrett just to name a few. These names are all before we get into the guest hosts like Ashley Banfield and commentators like Arthur Aidala, Bill Fallon, Marsha Clark, Paula Canny, Geoffrey Figer, and Jeanine Pirro. And don’t forget the hysterically ridiculous “advocates” like Gloria Allred, Wendy Murphy, and Lisa Pinto who apparently never met an accuser who wasn’t absolutely telling the truth – lack of evidence be damned! “They are never going to blame themselves for whatever the outcome is,” Mesereau told the audience. Well, they certainly can’t fault themselves for the outcome in the Jackson trial because the overwhelming lust for a “guilty” verdict didn’t sway the jury from reaching a correct verdict. However, it is the public which a defendant has to contend with once they step out of the courtroom. And to say media coverage doesn’t affect the public would be absolute lunacy. While he did not make the ludicrous argument that the Jackson coverage didn’t affect public perception, Dan Abrams made other statements which made me question if he had any idea what the hell he was talking about. Particularly, the issue of media fairness (or lack thereof) really struck a nerve. Abrams admitted there were people covering the “case” who were “dishonest” about being objective and “pretending to be fair.” He, however, also crossed the absurdity threshold a number of times. He claimed that Jackson got a “fairer shake in the media than just about any high profile defendant I’ve seen.” Sorry, nope. I was on planet Earth during this trial and have to totally disagree. Maybe what Abrams is referring to is a misinterpretation of why Jackson wasn’t treated like O.J. Simpson, for example. In comparison to the Simpson trial, Jackson’s coverage was tame. However, that wasn’t a gift from the media, but rather it was squarely related to the total lack of evidence in Jackson’s “case”. There was no evidence pointing towards Jackson’s guilt in the way a ton of evidence was pointing towards the guilt of a number of high profile defendants. So when the trials are stacked up against one another, the interpretation is that there was simply more to report pointing towards the guilt of other defendants in other cases. This very limited interpretation is the only way I can see someone saying, with a straight face, that Jackson got a “fairer shake” by the media. However, there is always an exception even to this narrow interpretation. Jackson standing on top of an SUV pales in comparison to Robert Blake strumming a guitar and singing a freakin’ song outside the courthouse during his murder trial. But of the two, who got the worst media haranguing? Jackson. The Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) memo, for example, was so obviously devastating that the media had no choice but to cover it. But it was covered without noting the fact that prosecutors later changed the timeline of the allegations to fit around that shocking information. At the panel discussion, Abrams claimed a lot of “evidence” worked against the defense. Yeah, sure. I almost wish I had swamp land to sell and Abrams’s phone number right about now. The overwhelming issue he seemed to be referring to as “evidence” was the fact of Jackson allowing what Abrams characterized as “boys” sleep in his room. Abrams, of course, chose not to emphasize the fact that girls, too, have also stayed in Jackson’s bed. In a roundabout way, the presence of girls at Neverland came in as defense evidence because the sisters of the prosecution-alleged “victims” also logged time at Neverland. Mesereau has also said in other post-trial interviews that entire families have stayed in Jackson’s “bedroom” (personal living quarters). It is important to understand what they’re calling a “bedroom”. It came into evidence in the trial that his “bedroom” is extremely large; comparable to the size of a condo. His “bedroom” alone is 2 stories high and so large that it has 3 bathrooms in it. But back to the issue at hand. In making his points, Abrams also omitted — either purposely or not — that allowing kids to sleep in one’s bed isn’t against the law. A person can’t be convicted for doing something which isn’t illegal to do. That would be lunacy. Misplaced suspicion does not make a person guilty either. Remember the time when one person made an allegation and it was up to the accused to prove they didn’t do it? …….No, no, no, I’m not talking about the Jackson trial……..although it fits. I’m talking about 1692 during the Salem witch trials. The field in which Abrams practices – the court of public opinion – is in some cases tantamount to the witch trials. He told the crowd that a not guilty verdict doesn’t mean Jackson has been vindicated. Well it damn sure doesn’t mean he’s guilty and got away with it either. In Jackson’s case, his vindication did come by way of the defense whether Abrams wants to accept it or not. Probably one of the most ridiculous statements to come out of Abrams’ mouth was this:

ABRAMS: Attorneys blaming the media on both sides, ‘Oh it’s so unfair’. In the Jackson case, it was almost humorous to hear both sides saying it was the media’s fault. And I would say, and in response to Tom’s attack on the media, I would say the only people who I think should have less credibility than lawyers on TV are lawyers who are paid to take a position. …That that person is less credible than someone being paid to advocate for someone is an absurdity. (Harvard U, Nov 29)

What’s laughable is the notion put before the audience by him that an “advocate” can’t be trusted as much as the media. Obviously it depends on the situation and the case. And in the Jackson “case”, that “paid advocate” (the defense) spent hours and hours on preparation, investigation and research into the trial. The investigation into the Jackson “case” turned up so much exonerating evidence that one would have to be purposely ignoring it for it not the affect their opinion. There is nothing Abrams can say to convince me that he or any other talking head knows more about the Jackson “case” than Mesereau, because instead of sitting in front of a camera, the defense attorney was actually in the courtroom trying the “case”. Additionally, it’s important to note that some of the talking heads on TV were paid as “analysts” who had an obvious pro-prosecution or pro-defense bend, which negates whatever point Abrams tried to make about credibility. It was the kind of point one makes when they only have a superficial grasp on the facts in the Jackson “case”; or if they are still holding onto suspicions about the 1993 investigation. There was a tone to Abrams’s commentary that Jackson wouldn’t have made a settlement in 1993 had he been innocent. Sitting back on the theory that ‘Jackson paid a settlement therefore he’s a criminal’ is not enough to treat a person as a criminal; especially considering the fact that the settlement was funded by an insurance company and that the 1993 accuser’s father just so happened to try to get $20 M out of Jackson before the allegations materialized in 1993. Stacked on top of this data is the fact that there are witnesses, according to Mesereau, who say the 1993 accuser told them Jackson did not molest him and was furious with his parents. Ultimately he filed for legal emancipation. But in Abrams’s defense, he didn’t yet know all of these facts until after he had already opened his mouth. Abrams also told the audience that he doesn’t buy the argument of media pressure leading to a particular outcome. That’s fair to say. However, there is no question that media coverage led to a public perception of guilt even before Jackson set foot inside the courtroom. As an outcome, the media certainly affected how some people – not all – saw Jackson. There could be people who still think Jackson is guilty of the allegations he was charged with because their only means of information intake was via Court TV, for example. Continuing an attempt to prop-up his contention of media fairness, Abrams brought up Geraldo Rivera’s public railing against the validity of the allegations against Jackson. He told the audience:

ABRAMS: Geraldo Rivera saying he’s gonna shave his mustache if Michael Jackson is convicted because ‘this is definitely a shakedown’. You don’t generally get someone with Geraldo’s profile saying that he’s gonna shave his mustache if a particular defendant is convicted. (Harvard U, Nov 29)

That’s a fair point up until the fact that you notice Rivera was shut down by Fox from even so much as commenting on the trial until it was over. According to an on-air confession by Rivera, he claimed he and Fox mutually agreed that he couldn’t be objective and so he was no longer going to cover the Jackson trial. In MJEOL Bullet #243 (Stupidity Alert: Rivera Attacked for NOT Bashing Jackson), the way certain pundits attacked Rivera for his opinion was discussed. After noticing a number of things which simply didn’t sound right, Rivera was not buying this “case” at all. What is ironic about the Rivera situation is that he was criticized for his position by people who were themselves completely biased against Jackson. It was laugh-out-loud funny seeing both Diane Dimond and Catherine Crier criticize Rivera for not being “objective”. Almost no one covering this trial was “objective”. By the way, no one else in a position comparable to Rivera was shut down from covering the Jackson trial. Fox didn’t muzzle Rivera counterparts Bill O’Reilly, John Gibson or Greg Jarrett. They were allowed to continue to spread just as much wrongheaded, one-sided information as they wanted seemingly without any interference from their bosses. The only difference between these situations is that Rivera was criticizing the prosecution instead of the defense. Is it a coincidence that Rivera got the gag and not the others? Of course not. All of these facts appeared to be unimportant to Abrams when he cited Rivera as proof of media balance. I don’t consider it proof of fairness to cite someone who was shut down from covering the trial because of his non-prosecution-cheerleading opinion. If anything the fact that he was muzzled, when no one else was, illustrated media unfairness. Abrams would later be asked by an audience member during the question section of the event to name 3 or 4 other people besides Rivera who leaned toward the defense in their coverage. He either couldn’t name any or he was too busy arguing the point of what “balance” means. Either way, he didn’t answer the question. In an attempt to show examples of media fairness, Abrams said more people called Gavin Arvizo the “accuser” than the “victim”. He didn’t use Arvizo’s name. In most other high profile cases, like Robert Blake, O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson and Phil Specter, it wouldn’t be logical to use the word “accuser” because the person has been killed. There is no question as to whether the person is dead or not. So using the word “victim” is required. They are a victim of a heinous crime. So to set Jackson’s coverage up against the coverage of those other trials (and future trials) on the issue of terminology is a bit absurd. And certainly it isn’t proof that the media’s coverage was “fairer” to Jackson. Further, a number of commentators – defense attorneys and prosecutors – called him “victim” when appearing on the air. To conclude, Abrams’s presence was needed to provide a balance to Mesereau. But some of the points he tried to make simply made no sense. Overall, it was an interesting discussion with a number of issues discussed concerning the trial. The host, Mr. Ogletree, said he tried to get prosecutors to appear on the panel, but they refused. Hum…I wonder why? I suppose they didn’t want to get torn up…again…by Mesereau in a forum where there was no judge to sustain their objections. You can view the entire video of the panel discussion over at the Harvard Law School video archive page here: Link to Video -MJEOL

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