BY JAMES SCOTT
Of The Post and Courier Staff
August 7, 2005
HILTON HEAD ISLAND — With the year’s highest profile civil case finished and his gag order lifted, attorney Tom Mesereau blasted the media for interfering in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial.
Speaking Saturday to more than 350 people at the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association’s annual conference, Mesereau, whose efforts helped Jackson get acquitted on all charges, said the media answers to money and ratings, not justice.
The high-profile lawyer, who also has represented Robert Blake, Mike Tyson and other celebrities, said he felt many members of the press were disappointed when his client was found not guilty on all 14 counts.
“I truly believe the media thought they could spin their way to a verdict,” he said during the two-hour presentation. “We lost the battle of spin, but we won the battle in the courtroom.”
Dressed in a dark suit and with his trademark long, white hair, the California lawyer talked of how the culture of trials has changed in the wake of the O.J. Simpson case, which turned courtroom drama into television ratings.
He said Jackson’s courtroom drama was an even bigger media spectacle than Simpson’s murder trial, largely because it attracted more media attention in Asia and Europe.
Mesereau particularly blasted cable news networks whose pundits he said are often ill-informed and wrong in their assumptions. Court TV drew repeated scorn from Mesereau who said the network hit the “bottom of the barrel” in terms of its credibility.
Mesereau, who refused to speak publicly during the trial because of a gag order, said he had to write the president of Court TV a letter demanding the network stop bothering his defense team. Despite the media circus, he said jurors made the right decision.
“Our juries are stronger than the media,” he said. “That is why the media is wrong so often in high-profile trials.”
Mesereau also took aim at the prosecution whose case he said came down to slinging mud at Michael Jackson.
He also said the prosecution put more resources in this case, including the use of nine fingerprint experts, than it would for a typical murder trial. Despite these resources, Mesereau said he was able to impeach many of their witnesses and turn them into strong defense witnesses.
He painted a picture of Jackson as a lonely entertainer who has been manipulated by those around him since childhood. Because of that, he said, his client has been the target of about 2,000 baseless lawsuits.
The alleged victim in this case, he said, was no different and was hoping to leech off of Jackson’s finances.
“They wanted to live in Neverland forever,” he said.
In closing, Mesereau warned lawyers of the media culture.
“Cameras are seductive. They’re like a drug,” he said. “It can be very dangerous to the integrity of our system.”