SENTINEL 8-25-2011
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Mesereau, Murray, & the Media

The King of Pop vs. the Cameras

The Firpo Files

August 25, 2011

Part 2 of 4

(Sentinel Sept 8-14, 2011)

Fireworks are already going off in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the former physician of the King of Pop, Michael Joseph Jackson. Just two days ago, CNN reported: "The judge in the trial of the physician charged with causing Michael Jackson's death warned Dr. Conrad Murray and his lawyers on Tuesday to keep their mouths shut in public when they disagree with his rulings."

"Keep their mouths shut in public"? Whoa. That's a pretty strong admonishment. CNN continues: "Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ended a hearing Tuesday saying he wanted ‘to make it crystal clear' he did not want to hear or read their criticisms in news reports."

Not much has changed since Michael's own trial. The media parade is already gearing up for action. Both Tom Mesereau and I have been contacted for interviews. But, speaking of interviews, let's get back to the one I conducted with him:

Mesereau: My retention generated enormous media coverage.  

Carr: Of course. I mean, you were leaving one famed case (Robert Blake) to go to an even more famous case.

Mesereau: One anti-Jackson reporter immediately appeared on The Today Show to announce that I had an African-American girlfriend and attended a black church.

Carr: Black girlfriend. Black church. Yea, I can see how that would make you a bad lawyer.

Mesereau: The lawyers I replaced did not depart gracefully. One appeared on Good Morning America to say he had left voluntarily because less than desirable people surrounded Michael.

Carr: I see. Was that the extent of your negative encounters with the press?

Mesereau: Actually, there's more.

Carr: Do tell.  

Mesereau: Certain tabloid shows, like those hosted by Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly, criticized my appearance.

Carr: Your appearance? 

Mesereau: Yes. I assumed they were "in the pocket" of prior counsel. This was my baptism.

Carr: I have my own horror stories with Geraldo, Bill O'Reilly, and Fox News in general.  And that includes the New York Post, an extension of the media world that belongs to Rupert Murdock. But, back to you. Do you think that prior counsel craved media attention?  

Mesereau: I made a public statement before the media to the effect that Michael's case was not about "lawyers, or anyone else, becoming celebrities."

Carr: Did you have anyone in mind when making this statement?

Mesereau: These words were designed to change the atmosphere surrounding the defense and, of lesser importance, to hurl a barb at prior counsel.

Carr: A bold move.

Mesereau: I had not liked the carnival atmosphere surrounding Jackson's defense lawyers. In my opinion, they repeatedly advertised their absolute delight at being in the middle of the circus. Their public statements were, to me, self-serving and amateurish.  

Carr: Incredible. Were these just your sentiments?

Mesereau: Not really. Michael and Randy Jackson were very suspicious of them.

Carr: Before you came on board, I actually met several times with prior counsel to map out media strategies in anticipation of the issuance of a gag order. I would imagine your comments didn't sit well with your colleagues.

Mesereau: Correct. My anti-lawyer-like comments generated controversy. But a new firm die had been cast. My Irish grandmothers smiled from the heavens!

Carr: More about the media. Any more horror stories?

Mesereau: Unfortunately, yes. The media smelled enormous ratings and revenue in a conviction. They were like a cloud of locusts, constantly descending on any weakness they spotted or created.  

Carr: Okay. That's general, and, frankly, can be expected. Michael's the brightest star in the entertainment universe, and they're the media. I mean, did they do something specific?

Mesereau: Yes. There were numerous efforts to discredit me.

Carr: Really? Like what?

Mesereau: Former girlfriends called to say they had been approached for unsavory information.

Carr: That's amazing. They did that to you too!

Mesereau: Oh yes. That's not all. I received calls from alleged "journalists" promising me favors for inside information. Tabloid sensationalism was at a premium.

Carr: During the trial itself, what was your general feel about the case? In other words, did you think you had the upper hand?

Mesereau: I thought we were winning all along. But the media reported the very opposite. And, of course, jealous, shallow legal pundits had a field day criticizing my performance.

Carr: Armchair quarterbacks.

Mesereau: To them, God help any lawyer who engaged in unconventional trial behavior. Such hearsay merited capital punishment.

Carr: [Chuckle.] Deep.

Next week, Part 3.