Exploring the trails to the trials
On Tues-day, August 16, 2011, I sat down and interviewed Thomas A. Mesereau, Jr., the famed lead attorney for Michael Joseph Jackson during the child molestation trial in 2005. He is partner in the law firm of Mesereau and Yu. It was only the second time I’d seen Tom since the trial ended with Michael being rightfully acquitted on all charges, in large part due to the brilliance of “T-Mez” (as some of Michael’s faithful fans affectionately call Mr. Mesereau).
It was a very revealing interview-the result of which will be laid out in a four-part consecutive series leading up the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray later this month-and I am grateful that Mr. Mesereau invited me to his office here in Los Angeles to conduct the interview. Some of his answers have already been chronicled in an excellent article he wrote in the prestigious legal newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
Tom and I are kindred spirits in that while he battled honorably in the court of law, I crossed blades with the media in the court of public opinion. For someone as wildly popular as is Mesereau, he is an amazingly humble man. Although still an unintimidating but imposing figure, he has slimmed down a bit, restricting his diet primarily to fish and fowl.
Since we really haven’t talked very much (meeting for the first time during the trial in Santa Maria some six years ago), I think it is safe to say that we were both a little nervous at first. (I know I was!) Once we got past the nervousness, we relaxed and had a very productive interview.
Carr: What’s one of the first things you think about when someone mentions the trial of Michael Jackson?
Mesereau: Aside from his obvious innocence, I think of how unique the trial was. More accredited media covered these proceedings than the O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson trials combined. The “King of Pop” was more popular than anyone, including Elvis Presley.
Carr: Do you recall what big names were associated with the trial?
Mesereau: Jay Leno, Chris Tucker, Macaulay Culkin, and George Lopez. Larry King testified outside the presence of the jury.
Carr: By way of reminder, how long was the trial, and how many witnesses were involved?
Mesereau: The trial lasted five months with more than 140 witnesses appearing.
Carr: Two questions for you: It’s no secret, if Johnnie Cochran was here, he would’ve represented Michael. Did you know Johnnie Cochran? And, how did you come to represent Michael?
Mesereau: In November 2003, when 70 Santa Barbara sheriff deputies raided Neverland Ranch, I was driving to Los Angeles from Northern California. I was ending a nine-day vacation and ready to resume preparations for the murder trial of long-time Hollywood actor Robert Blake, which was set for February 2004. My phone started ringing off the hook with frantic requests that I travel to Las Vegas and defend Michael Jackson. I refused.
Carr: What? Obviously you took the case. But, are you telling me you initially refused?
Mesereau: Yes. I refused because I didn’t think I could handle the two cases at once.
Carr: Now that’s humility. I’m impressed. So, what happened next?
Mesereau: After jury selection began in the Blake case, the client and I had a severe disagreement that Judge Darlene Schemp could not resolve. Mercifully, she granted my motion to withdraw. Shortly thereafter, Michael’s brother Randy called me to, again, see if I would defend his brother. I flew to Florida, where I met Jackson for the first time.
Carr: Fascinating. Okay, what about the first question. Did you know Johnnie Cochran?
Mesereau: Funny you should bring him up. When I arrived in Florida, I was told by Michael and Randy that they had spoken with Johnnie in the hospital. According to them, he said I was the one who could win. I knew Johnnie, but he wasn’t a close friend.
Mesereau: Actually, I was quite surprised that he’d speak so glowingly about me.
Carr: Were you and your partner Susan Yu the only attorneys they interviewed?
Mesereau: No. Randy said they interviewed others. However, when I received a call three weeks later informing me that Michael wanted us to defend him, I thought they were interviewing other attorneys in the meantime. Randy told me that wasn’t the case. Michael knew he wanted us before we even finished the interview. [End.]
Next week, Part 2.