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Michael Jackson's Attorney Speaks Out About Trial

Aired June 14, 2005 - 21:00   ET

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a prime-time exclusive: Michael Jackson's defense lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, how he won yesterday's total victory in Jackson's child molestation trial. How Michael is really doing right now and more.
Thomas Mesereau for the hour with your phone calls, a prime time exclusive next on LARRY KING LIVE.

He comes to us from Santa Maria, California, his great victory there yesterday, a shutout victory.

By the way, Tom, on your skills on cross-examination, Loyola law professor Lauri Levenson said she's the best she's ever seen. Is that an art or a science?

THOMAS MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON'S LAWYER: It's really an art, Larry. And I'm very flattered by the comment. I don't know if it's well deserved, but it is an art. It's something that you're always learning about, you never completely master. And you have to always be open-minded about how to do it.

KING: How did you get this case?

MESEREAU: I had known Randy Jackson for many years. Initially, when the search of Neverland took place, I did get a call about flying to Las Vegas to meet Michael Jackson. I could not do it then. I was tied up in the Robert Blake case, getting ready for trial and, eventually, I had a falling out with Mr. Blake.

And about three months after that, I got another call to fly to Florida and meet Michael, and one thing led to another.

KING: Is -- is it common in criminal cases for lawyers to be switched, like Blake drops you, you go somewhere else?

MESEREAU: I don't know if it's common, but you know, the criminal defense business is a very tense, high stakes business, and clients do get very upset at times. They're very vulnerable emotionally, and changes do happen from time to time.

KING: Did you work with Jackson's preceding lawyers?

MESEREAU: A little bit. Mark Geragos was very gracious and very professional at all times. I've known him for a long time. He's a very, very decent and very, very skilled lawyer. And he was very helpful in the transition. KING: You said that you were not surprised by the verdict, meaning you were confident. But most lawyers say never predict a jury. Never be confident. Explain.

MESEREAU: I was confident. I thought that we had really destroyed their case very effectively on cross examination, and I thought we had called a lot of very effective witnesses in our case. And I thought when you put that whole package together, they were going to have trouble.

KING: How do you psychologically prepare a client for something like -- like for example, do you make him aware that he might be in jail that night? Do you discuss that at all, or do you only go the positive routes?

MESEREAU: It depends on the client, Larry. You have to be candid with your client. You have to explain the possibilities and the options without sounding defeatist. And at no time did I ever take a defeatist attitude with Michael Jackson, because I always thought we'd win this case.

KING: What kind of client was he?

MESEREAU: He's a wonderful client. He's one of the easiest clients to deal with that I've ever experienced. He's very kind. He's very gentle. He's very cooperative. He's a very, very honorable, decent person. And I thoroughly enjoyed representing him, and I consider him a friend.

KING: Was there any thought of him taking the stand?

MESEREAU: Yes, there was. When I gave my opening statement, I intended to put him on the stand, and he intended to testify. As the case developed, it became very clear to me that he didn't have to.

We had cross-examined very effectively. We had shown the jury a videotape of a two hour and 45-minute interview with Michael Jackson, where he explained his life and his philosophy of music and living and his experiences growing up. And when we put all that together, we decided there was nothing really to be achieved by it.

KING: Was there ever a point, Tom, where you were, during this, down?

MESEREAU: You know, Larry, it's interesting. All trials have ups and downs. And all trials have surprises.

But in this case, I felt that we were very aggressive from the opening bell, in our opening statement, in our cross examination of their initial witnesses. And our plan was to be extremely aggressive and put them on the defensive as quickly as possible. And I think we achieved that.

So, we had a lot of good days in this trial, particularly in their case, and particularly in our case. And I was always confident.

KING: There were some who were saying the prosecution was obsessed with Michael Jackson. Do you share that view?

MESEREAU: Yes, I do. I share it completely. I think they were not objective about this case. They were not objective about their witnesses. They were not objective about the theories they tried to prove, which were unprovable, because they were false. And I think their obsession really hurt them.

KING: You think it goes back to the settlement years back?

MESEREAU: I don't know where it began, Larry. It would appear around that time there developed an obsession about Michael Jackson in this prosecuting agency, but, clearly they were not being objective when they put this case together.

KING: Now, why, Tom? I mean, they had people come to them. They had a lady come to them, the son telling them stories. They had other people who were witnesses. Why did they make a mistake in going ahead with this?

MESEREAU: Well, first of all, they never thoroughly investigated the accusers and the accuser's family, in my opinion. And if you look at the early interviews with the accusers, you'll see the police basically accepting their story before they even investigated who they are.

It was really us that found all the problems with these witnesses, what their history, with their backgrounds. The prosecution almost turned a blind eye to what was really going on. And I think even in the middle of the trial, they were trying to deny reality, and it caught up with them.

KING: How big a factor was Macaulay Culkin?

MESEREAU: He was a big factor. He was a wonderful witness for Michael Jackson. And I will always have tremendous respect for Macaulay Culkin. He's on top of the world. He didn't have to go to bat for his friend. And he did it anyway.

And there never was any doubt that he was going to come and testify. He always said, "I want to be there. I want to help Michael Jackson, and I want to tell the truth." He was a big factor, and he was a man of really strong character.

KING: Do you like to talk to jurors after trial, win or lose?

MESEREAU: I do. I haven't had the opportunity to do it here, but, yes, I do. You always learn things from jurors. And I've never had the privilege to be a juror myself. So -- and I've always liked to have the opportunity, but I never did. I always get bumped off when I get called for jury duty.

KING: I would imagine. We had one of the -- we had the foremen on last night. We also had one of the jurors who said he believed that Michael Jackson was or is a pedophile. It's just that this prosecution didn't prove this case. How do you react to a statement like that? MESEREAU: Well, I think he's wrong. Michael Jackson is not a pedophile. He's never been a pedophile. The prosecution has spent years trying to put together a story which they hoped they could prove and failed to prove. Michael Jackson is not a pedophile. He's never molested a child, nor would he ever even conceive of doing such a thing.

KING: So these were concocted stories?

MESEREAU: Well, certainly, they were concocted by the main accusers, and certainly, the prosecution tried to create the impression that other people were molested. And they all came in and said they weren't.

KING: The amazing thing, though, is when you have a guy who's certainly different from the norm, an older -- a man who sleeps with boys, to get a jury, as my friend Edward Bennett Williams used to say, what you have with a jury is to get the jury to put themselves in your client's shoes. If the jury can put themselves in your client's shoes, you win.

How does someone put themselves in Michael Jackson's shoes?

MESEREAU: Well, first of all, Larry, this notion that he sleeps with boys was a concoction by the prosecution. What he said very openly was that he allows families into his room.

Now, his room is the size of a duplex. It's two levels. He's had mothers sleep there, fathers sleep there, sisters sleep there, brothers sleep there. The prosecution concocted this little saying about sleeping with boys, because they thought it would turn off the jury, and they failed.

But yes, we did have to explain who Michael Jackson was to the jury, that he's a very creative spirit, a very gentle soul, a brilliant musician, a brilliant choreographer, and a very sensitive person who's very concerned about the world and the problems in the world. And he has a very childlike spirit and essence to him, and he attracts children all over the world.

We did have to explain who he was. But this is a country which prides itself on diversity, on the freedom to be who you are. And we never diverted our attention from who Michael was. We never tried to make him look like anything but himself. He never tried to dress differently for the courtroom. Our whole intention is to show who Michael is and be proud of it and embrace it.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Thomas Mesereau, Michael Jackson's very successful defense attorney. We'll have more questions. We'll take your calls, as well. He's with us for the full program. Don't go away.


THOMAS SNEDDON, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY D.A.: When a victim comes in, the victim tells you they've been victimized, and you believe that and you believe that the evidence supports that, you don't look at their pedigree. We look at what we think is what's right. You do the right things for the right reasons. If it doesn't work out, that's why we have a jury system. But we did the right thing for the right reasons.



KING: Thomas Mesereau is our special guest.

What's it like in your gut? Now, you can be as confident as you wish, but when they walk in, before those words are uttered, what goes through you?

MESEREAU: You know, Larry, it's a very tense, uncomfortable moment. You never really get used to it. Your heart skips a few beats. And it's something that I never look forward to, in a sense, because it's never easy.

KING: Did you, at all, clutch Jackson's arm or he your arm?

MESEREAU: Yes. When the verdicts were being read, I did grab Michael's hand. And he seemed to appreciate it. I wanted to show him my support. And I also wanted to send the message, "We are winning this case."

KING: What did he say to you when all 10 counts were read?

MESEREAU: He said the word, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." His first reaction was gratitude. Gratitude to God, gratitude to his defense team. Gratitude to his family and friends. That's really all he said.

KING: And that's the joy of a criminal defense lawyer, right?

MESEREAU: You bet.

KING: What happened -- he posted bail, did he not? Is that returned immediately? How is his -- what, did he take a lien on the house? How is that done?

MESEREAU: Well, that was done early in the case. It was done, actually, before I was -- appeared on the case as council of record. And bail was posted by a bail bondsman. It was secured by property.

KING: And is that then torn up immediately?

MESEREAU: Yes, yes. When he was acquitted, the provision was made for bail to be revoked, and he moves on and he's free.

KING: When your friend, Mark Geragos, who was on this program last week, he was highly critical of pundits, television pundits, 24 hour news, round-the-clock people knocking, making forecasts. He was even giving thought that maybe the British system of not allowing coverage of trials is better. What are your thoughts about pundits? MESEREAU: By the way, I used the word "revoked." Bail was exonerated, not revoked.

KING: Good.

MESEREAU: I share Mark Geragos' comments. I think that we have developed an industry of would-be experts who are not professional, who are not experienced, who are very amateurish about their comments about what's going on in courtrooms and who are willing to give opinions when they're not even there. And I think it has become the theater of the absurd, and I think it reached its lowest level in this case.

KING: What was it like for you to -- you weren't under an order not to watch it. What was it like to watch it?

MESEREAU: Well, I didn't watch it that often, Larry. I was too busy working on the case.

KING: But you knew it was going on?

MESEREAU: I knew a lot of it was going on. When I would take a break in my apartment while I was preparing, I would turn on the TV set. And a lot of it was appalling: the factual inaccuracies, the obvious bias among people like Court TV, who I felt was really an arm of the prosecution through this case. It was very amateurish and very unprofessional and very disturbing.

KING: Would you say it is -- it is hard or impossible to predict an outcome of a trial you didn't attend?

MESEREAU: It's very hard, because you don't know the chemistry of the courtroom. You're not watching the interaction between the witnesses and the jury and the judge and both sides. There's just so much that you miss if you're not there.

And plus, how do you compress, you know, six to eight hours of testimony into a sound bite? You can't possibly be accurate.

KING: What about the British system? Once an arrest is made, no coverage?

MESEREAU: Well, there's certainly a lot to be said for that. I frankly like freedom of the press. But it's reaching an absurd state when it comes to trials in America.

We are obsessed with celebrity trials. It's become an industry of pundits who really are trying to be movie stars and not real legal experts. And it's just -- it just reached the bottom of the barrel in this case.

Fortunately, the jury was not affected. They did the right thing.

KING: The prosecutor, Mr. Sneddon, said that there is celebrity justice, like in California. Blake is an example. This is an example, O.J. How do you react?

MESEREAU: That's sour grapes on his part.

I'll tell you what celebrity injustice was in this case. It was sending 70 sheriffs to raid Michael Jackson's home in a search. It was putting more experts, more sheriffs and more investigators on this case than they do with serial killers. That's what I call celebrity injustice.

So in a sense, he's correct; he just is looking at it the wrong way.

KING: Does...

MESEREAU: Michael Jackson was treated differently because he was a celebrity.

KING: Does, though, a celebrity have an edge in that we can assume going in most of the people like them?

MESEREAU: I don't consider that necessarily an edge. I think that jurors tend to be very mindful that they're not supposed to treat celebrities differently, and they might even go -- bend over backwards to make sure they don't do that.

So, there's a lot of injustice that's directed at celebrities. They're bigger targets for prosecutors. They're bigger targets for sheriffs and police officers. They're bigger targets for people who want fame and fortune.

KING: What do you make of -- what's your assessment of the performance of the prosecution in the courtroom?

MESEREAU: They were extremely aggressive and extremely prepared and very determined. I think their biggest problem was they were not objective about their case. They believed things they wanted to believe. They tried to prove theories that were absurd. And they tried to demonize Michael Jackson in a way which looked absolutely ridiculous when you really took a close look at the evidence. And they went way over the edge, and it hurt them.

KING: Weren't you very concerned, though, when that tape was allowed in at the end?

MESEREAU: I was concerned. I didn't think there was a legal basis for it. But after looking at it a second time and realizing how many conflicting statements this accuser had made in that interview and how that interview showed the police officer was willing to accept his story before he even investigated the case, the more I looked at it, the more I thought it would probably help us. And based on some of the juror's comments, it did help us.

KING: Emotionally, is it hard to press when you cross-examine an accuser, a young accuser, a mother?

MESEREAU: Well, you have to gauge your cross-examination to the witness. You don't want to look like a bully. You don't want to look like you're -- you're really taking advantage of your position.

However, you have to adjust, depending on the personality in front of you. Some young kids are -- have a level of maturity that's extremely high. And as Chris Tucker said about the accuser, he was very cunning and very smart. We had to take all of that into account and factor our cross-examination accordingly.

And I think you also want a cross-examination -- you want to cross-examine at different speeds with different tones, and you want to do whatever you think will be effective for that particular witness.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Thomas Mesereau. We'll be including your phone calls.

Tomorrow night, Jermaine and Tito Jackson, Michael's brothers, will be our special guests. And Thursday night, a very special hour with a very special man, Reverend Billy Graham.

We'll be right back.



SNEDDON: We believed in the child. We believed in the case and we believed that there was sufficient corroboration for what the children said occurred.

And so, whether it be Michael Jackson, or John Smith, or whoever it may be, this is the kind of case that a sheriff investigates. The sheriff believed in this case, and their detectives believed in this case, and we believed in this case. And like I said, I'm not going to apologize for what we do.


KING: I guess, Tom Mesereau, the jury didn't agree?

MESEREAU: They certainly didn't.

Michael Jackson was acquitted of every felony count and every misdemeanor count.

It was a clean sweep.

KING: Did you expect any -- did you have any worries about some of the misdemeanor counts?

MESEREAU: I really didn't, because to convict him of any of the misdemeanor counts, you had to believe the accuser beyond a reasonable doubt.

And that was not going to happen, in my opinion.

KING: So, even as small a thing as serving liquor without any intention for sex was turned down as well by the jury?

MESEREAU: They were completely turned down by the jury. They did not believe these accusers. They did not believe any of these -- this family's testimony on any significant level.

KING: Would you like cameras in the courtroom?

MESEREAU: You know, I have mixed feelings about it. I'm glad there were not cameras in this particular courtroom.

I think it would have created more of a circus-type environment than existed outside the courtroom, already. I like the idea of the public seeing what goes on in courts, because we're supposed to conduct public trials.

But I think given the media's repeated attempts to make a circus- liken environment out of criminal trials, I'm beginning to change my opinion of that, and maybe they don't belong in courtrooms.

KING: Do you like gag orders?

MESEREAU: I don't particularly like them. I think in this case, it worked very well. I think the temptation among lawyers and prosecutors to become movie stars, and essentially promote themselves on camera is something that's got to be avoided, if we're going to have justice in our criminal justice system.

KING: Mr. Mark Geragos a good witness for you?

MESEREAU: He was an excellent witness.

He was a very, very honest witness. He really spoke for his client. He explained, very simply and very carefully and honestly, what he had done to surveil this family because of his suspicions. And he really did go to bat for his client.

KING: There were some Jackson supporters concerned over the fact there was no black on the jury -- composite of that community, of course.

There was a black alternate.

Were you concerned about the race issue?

MESEREAU: Well, certainly Michael Jackson is part of a very prominent African-American family and initially, we did hope there would be some African-American representation on the jury.

But once the jury was picked, I always had a good feeling about this jury. I always felt they were very independent-minded. Nobody was going to intimidate them. They were going to take their job very seriously and be very fair.

And I was correct.

KING: Do you like jurors who take notes? MESEREAU: I don't know how to answer that, Larry.

I think note-taking is an indication that someone is paying attention and very concerned about their job. But on the other hand, you can also be paying attention and absorbing what's going on without taking notes.

So, I don't really know how to answer that question.

KING: All right.

When the jury asked a couple of questions of the judge, they were not revealed to the press or the public.

Were you concerned about any of that? Anything you can tell us about what they asked?

MESEREAU: You know, I really don't want to reveal that.

I don't know if Judge Melville has unsealed those questions, or not.

So, at this point, I'd rather not discuss that.

KING: Were you concerned by any of them, without telling us what they were?

MESEREAU: I was not concerned. I was actually encouraged by them.

KING: So, when you heard the question, that furthered your confidence?

MESEREAU: Yes, it did.

KING: How well did the judge do?

MESEREAU: The judge was an outstanding jurist.

I think all judges in America should learn a lesson from the way Judge Melville conducted this trial.

He was determined, from day one, that this was not going to get out of control. He was determined that justice was going to be done in and outside that courtroom.

He employed some very creative procedures to make sure that order was kept throughout the trial. He did a masterful job and I have total respect for Judge Melville and his wonderful staff.

KING: Even though he got mad at you a few times?

MESEREAU: Yes, he did, but he got mad at the prosecution, also.

He was very fair-minded.

KING: That's all you want, right? balance and fair?

MESEREAU: That's, I think, the most we can expect, and we had it with Judge Melville. He's an outstanding judge.

KING: We'll be right back with more a Thomas Mesereau.

We'll be including your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... The mother, when she looked at me and snapped her fingers a few times, and she says, "You know how our culture is," and winks at me. I thought, "No, that's not the way our culture is."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a mother to -- the values and stuff that she has taught them and they've learned -- and that is really hard for me to comprehend, you know, because I wouldn't want any of my children to lie for their own gain.



KING: We're back with Thomas Mesereau. We certainly thank him for giving us this time tonight, exclusively. Let's take a few calls.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the victorious defense attorney. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Um, Mr -- hi, Larry.


CALLER: Mr. Mesereau, do you have any idea when Michael might make a statement?

MESEREAU: You know, I really don't. I have not talked to him about that. Michael is going to have to go through a period of physical recovery. He's exhausted. He was not sleeping. He was not eating. It was a very, very traumatic experience for him and it's going to take a while for him to recover. I don't anticipate his making a statement very soon, but I suppose it's possible. But I have not discussed it with him.

KING: You then would not recommend any immediate in-depth interview?

MESEREAU: I really would not. I think Michael needs to spend time with his children and his family. He needs to savor his victory. He's a very, very grateful, very spiritual person. I think he would like to be left alone, and would like to heal and mend and move forward.

KING: They all took off in their cars back to Neverland. Where did you go right after the verdict?

MESEREAU: After the verdict, we went to see Judge Melville and his staff to thank them for their very professional behavior towards all of us and then we went to Neverland as well.

KING: Indiana, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hello. My hats off to you, Larry, for your fairness during this thing and to you, Mr. Mesereau. My question is, the media has branded Michael Jackson as a freak and pedophile. How can he recover as the consummate talent he is?

KING: Good question.

MESEREAU: Well, I think he can recover because Michael is a very resilient person. Yes, he has been a target for many years. He's been maligned. He's been scandalized, but he's also one of the world's greatest artists and one of the world's greatest talents and also one of the world's greatest humanitarians and Michael has all the tools and the skills and the support to recover and go forward and do very well.

KING: Do you expect him to return to the stage?

MESEREAU: Larry, I'm not an expert on the music industry or the entertainment business, but I know Michael is an artist. He's a creative soul. You can't stifle his creativity and I would not be surprised if he makes a rebound and does it very effectively.

KING: Was the family easy to deal with for you? They're such a tight-knit group.

MESEREAU: The family was lovely to deal with. They're very, very wonderful people. They were all very supportive of Michael. There were a lot of rumors about dissension that were not true. They were a joy to deal with, a very lovely family.

KING: What happened to Raymone Bain?

MESEREAU: Well, you know, I worked with Raymone for many months. We worked very effectively together. We had a few differences towards the end, but that happens in big cases, but I have a lot of respect for Raymone, and always enjoyed seeing her and working with her.

KING: Why let her out that late in the case, though?

MESEREAU: You know, there's some confidential reasons why we had some differences at the end, but they're really insignificant. The fact of the matter is we were a team and we won and she did a very fine job.

KING: There's the famous tape of you apparently having an argument with, I guess, Brian Oxman and there was strong -- of course, correspondents went nuts with that tumult in the Jackson defense. What was that about? MESEREAU: I'm not going to talk about that, Larry. I think that's a matter of confidence. Brian was a very hard worker. He has known the Jacksons for a long time. He has given them very effective representation in many areas. We had differences. It happens in big cases when the stakes are high.

KING: None of our business?

MESEREAU: That's correct.

KING: You have said that Michael was a victim of bad advice in the past, that settling past molestation claims led to greed begetting greed. Are you saying he shouldn't have settled anything?

MESEREAU: That's correct. I think, looking backwards -- you know, we can all be Monday-morning quarterbacks in life and change things we've done, but I think if Michael could go back, he would never have settled those cases. He would've fought them to the end and the message would have got out, don't make false claims against Michael Jackson or you're going to trial.

KING: Oxman still represents -- he told Paula Zahn -- he still represents the family, right?

MESEREAU: That's my understanding. I have not talked to Brian since he left the defense team.

KING: Are you concerned there might be civil suits against Michael after this? Or does this wash that out?

MESEREAU: Well, I think it would be crazy to file a civil suit against Michael, given what happened in this trial. It's always possible. But, if it's done, he will fight it until the end and he will win.

KING: His ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, was called by the state. She appeared to help the defense. Do you agree?

MESEREAU: Yes, I do. She helped us a lot.

KING: Why, then, was she called?

MESEREAU: You'll have to ask the prosecutors about that. They wined and dined her at a local restaurant the night before. From what I understand, a lot of pressure was put on her to say what they wanted her to say. When she got on the witness stand, she told the truth and she explained who Michael was and was very effective for us.

KING: Anyone you called you regretted?

MESEREAU: Not really, Larry. You know, there were a couple of witnesses that didn't pan out exactly as we had hoped, but we did pretty well. We put on a very strong defense after, I think very effectively cross-examining their witnesses. So, we had an extraordinarily large number of good days in this trial.

KING: Sometimes defendants are a very important part of their case, sometimes not. Was Michael very involved in the defense?

MESEREAU: Yes, he was, but Michael is an artist. He's a musician. He's not a criminal defense lawyer and he was very willing to listen and to do what he was advised was the correct thing, and he was actually a joy to work with.

KING: So, in other words, if you had told him, Michael, I think you should take the stand, he would have?

MESEREAU: He absolutely would have. In fact, he expected to.

KING: We'll be back with more, and more phone calls for Thomas Mesereau on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Thomas Mesereau. Let's take another call. Glenolden, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. I'd like to ask Mr. Mesereau if there's a possibility that a malicious prosecution case be filed against the D.A.'s office of Santa Barbara and Mr. Tom Sneddon?

MESEREAU: I think it would be warranted but I have not discussed it with Michael Jackson. We just got the verdict, you know, recently. He's now recovering. Nobody has really discussed that issue. But if you ask me...

KING: But you think it was malicious?

MESEREAU: I do. I think that he was treated in a way that no one else would've been similarly treated. It was because he was a mega-celebrity. Why 70 sheriffs searching Neverland Ranch, based upon what this accuser and his family said, before they'd even investigated the background of the accuser and his family?

KING: So, you're saying, if he wanted to, he could bring a malicious prosecution suit, and be successful?

MESEREAU: I don't -- I'm not going to say right now what the merits or demerits of the suit would be. That would have to be explored. But do I think this was done maliciously and unfairly? Absolutely.

KING: You had a tragedy happen to you during this trial. Your sister died of lung cancer, right?

MESEREAU: That's correct.

KING: How did that affect this whole thing for you, I mean, emotionally?

MESEREAU: Well, it was very difficult emotionally. It happened right as the trial was beginning. Judge Melville gave me some time to handle the funeral and all the things related to that. It was very difficult, but I will say that one of her last messages to me was that she thought we were going to win. And I thought about her throughout the trial, yes.

KING: How old was she?

MESEREAU: She was 53.

KING: She smoked?

MESEREAU: Yes, she did. She smoked from the time she was 13, and, unfortunately, it took a toll.

KING: Was Michael compassionate about that death?

MESEREAU: Michael was not only compassionate; he sent her the most beautiful, the largest bouquet of flowers you've ever seen. He wrote a little poem for her. It came from he and his children. And it was one of the most meaningful and most wonderful things that he could have done for her during her final days.

KING: How does he interact with his kids?

MESEREAU: Beautifully. He loves his children. They love him. He spends a lot of time with them. He is a loving, doting, caring father. And his children just adore him.

KING: Are they well mannered?

MESEREAU: Yes, they are. They're wonderful children. I was with them yesterday.

KING: When you were doing your pre-trial questioning of Michael, when you have to get into a lot of subjects that are not everyday table conversation, was that hard? When you have to ask your own client, did you do this to this boy?

MESEREAU: I'm not going to go into the questions I asked Michael; they're privileged and confidential.

KING: Of course, but were they difficult for you?

MESEREAU: Frankly, no, because the more I got to know Michael Jackson and the more ridiculous I realized these charges were, and the more of a gentle, charitable, kind-hearted, decent person he is, the less difficulty there was. I mean, he always was a very straightforward, honest, down-to-Earth person to deal with. And the Michael Jackson that I know doesn't even come close to the Michael Jackson they tried to portray.

KING: And when you asked...

MESEREAU: So he was an easy person to deal with.

KING: And when you asked him questions, he answered you directly?

MESEREAU: Of course he did. He's very honest and he's very down-to-Earth. If you look at the few interviews he has done, you see a very, very simple, down-to-Earth person who is very honest about who he is, honest about his loneliness, honest about his childhood. He is a very, very decent, kind person and easy to deal with.

KING: And trusting?

MESEREAU: Too trusting. That's been his downfall. He has trusted the wrong people. He has felt sorry for the wrong people. He has tried to heal the wrong people. And they have turned on him and tried to take advantage of him through the legal system.

KING: Will he be tougher?

MESEREAU: Yes, he will. We've already had a talk about that. He will, for sure. This was a horrible experience for him, and he's not going to allow people to just run wild through his home, and -- because he feels sorry for them and wants to take care of them and wants to heal them. He has to get much firmer and he will.

KING: You said earlier, you let him be him. You didn't tell him what to wear or anything, but the pajama incident that got a lot of press, did that bother you?

MESEREAU: Well, but that was not something anybody planned. He had to go to the hospital. He expected to be there for a short period of time. Judge Melville took a very firm position, which he had the right to do, and said, get him here quickly or he was going to issue a bench warrant. So Michael had to run right from the hospital to the courthouse. He complied with Judge Melville's order. That was not something anybody planned or wanted. It just happened.

KING: You think it was much ado about nothing?


MESEREAU: I agree. Absolutely.

KING: So, therefore, you didn't deal with you telling him how to act in court? Sit up, sit this way, do this, do that, wear this, wear that?

MESEREAU: No. I wanted Michael Jackson to be who Michael Jackson is. And you know, jurors are smart. They're intuitive. They're instinctive. They know what they're being asked to do to somebody at the counsel table. And you don't want to have your client to do something that is phony or unrealistic. I wanted Michael Jackson to be exactly who he was and is, and be proud of it, and that's what he did. There was nothing phony about our side of the table. There was a lot that was phony about the prosecution's side of the table.

KING: Phony?


KING: Meaning they knew they were doing something that wasn't right? MESEREAU: I don't see how they could not have known that. Look at their conspiracy theory, for example. They were trying to say that Michael Jackson had a financial motive to essentially abduct a family and ship them to Brazil. It was the most ridiculous theory I have ever heard of. I don't know how they did it with a straight face. And it backfired on them, as it should have.

KING: We'll be back with more of Thomas Mesereau, some more phone calls, too, on this very interesting hour of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. You mentioned earlier how you boosted your client and always tried to be optimistic. But do you have to give -- do you have to talk at all about the possibility of a guilty verdict, tell him what might happen to him? Deal with what might happen?

MESEREAU: Well, Larry, you have to be honest with your client at all times. You do have ethical and professional obligations to explain the situation the client is in, but at the same time, you know, if you really believe in your case and you really are optimistic about your chances, you also have to convey that as well. And I was always optimistic about this case once I learned about it, because the more you looked into who these accusers were and who the witnesses the prosecution was going to call were, the more ridiculous everything looked.

KING: So, there was no reason to say, Michael, be prepared, you might be in jail tonight?

MESEREAU: Well, you never know what a jury is going to do. You don't know those 12 people. They're not personal friends of yours. You don't know what makes them tick. But I always had a good feeling about this jury. I always felt that our case was going in very well. And I always thought the truth would prevail. And I really felt that these jurors were very independent-minded, that nobody was going to push them around, they were going to follow the law and do what's right.

KING: Tempe, Arizona, for Tom Mesereau. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry, I love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: My question is, how do you think the media coverage affected this case, Mr. Mesereau?

KING: Yeah. Did it?

MESEREAU: Well, ultimately, we had the right result. Justice was served. An innocent man walked free. So, I can't say that, in the long run, the media had the damaging effect that I was worried about at certain points in the trial. The problem I have with the media was they tried to turn it into a circus. They tried to pursue biases and prejudices against Mr. Jackson, because they thought it would generate interest and ratings, and they tried to make a circus out of the case. And to some extent, they did. But in the end, justice prevailed, because this jury was not going to be unduly influenced by other people. They were going to do what was right, and they did.

KING: Do you believe, therefore -- do you believe the jury didn't watch television?

MESEREAU: I believe they didn't. I believe this jury took Judge Melville's orders very seriously. I believe they took their job very seriously and I believe they were determined not to be unfairly or unduly influenced by anybody.

KING: Manillapan, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. King. I love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I'd like to know if Mr. Mesereau could disclose the approximate cost of the defense.

MESEREAU: I'm sorry. I didn't totally understand the question.

KING: If you could disclose the approximate cost of the defense.

MESEREAU: I will not talk about legal fees or cost. That's confidential.

KING: What did it cost the state?

MESEREAU: It had to have cost them many millions of dollars. I have been told that the board of supervisors of Santa Barbara county has been up in arms about the cost of this case and if you look at the number of sheriffs and investigators and experts and people and prosecutors put on this case, it's absurd. They wouldn't do it in a murder case. They wouldn't do it in a serial killer case, but they did it because Michael Jackson is a superstar and they wanted to take a superstar down.

KING: How important was your investigator, Scott Ross?

MESEREAU: He was extremely important. Scott Ross did a fabulous job, as did Jesus Castillo, our second investigator. They were critical to our defense. They were relentless. They were professional. They dug up the facts. They found the witnesses. They got them to court. These guys were just terrific.

KING: Do you use your team a lot, Tom? Did other lawyers work with you?

MESEREAU: Yes. My co-counsel and law partner, Susan Yu, was absolutely essential to this defense. She was tireless in the way she put the evidence together, the way she assisted me in preparation. Bob Sanger, my co-counsel from Santa Barbara was an unbelievably effective lawyer. He was a trial lawyer in the trial court. He argued in the appellate courts. He did law in motion. He knew the local procedures and system. We had a lot of assistants helping us out in his office and my office and it was a great team effort and it succeeded.

KING: And, we'll be back with some more moments with Thomas Mesereau, ask about him, his future. Don't go away.


KING: One more call. Gainesville, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I'd like to ask Mr. Mesereau if he believes that Tom Sneddon is responsible for the grand jury testimony being leaked to the press.

MESEREAU: I don't know if Tom Sneddon is personally responsible for that, but certainly somebody in the prosecution side, it would appear, was responsible and when I say prosecution side, I'm including the sheriff's department.

As you know, those transcripts were leaked just as the trial was beginning, and it's my belief they were leaked to try and prejudice the entire process. Do I know that Tom Sneddon did it personally? I do not have any understanding of that, but I think somebody who favored the prosecution did it. That's my belief.

KING: You said Michael's going to stay at Neverland?

MESEREAU: I don't know the answer to that, Larry. We just haven't had a chance to talk about his future very much.

KING: He's got such an interest in kids. Do you think he'll still have some come over? Or are you going to advise him against...

MESEREAU: Again, well, I really haven't talked to Michael very much about the future. I do know, as we said before, that he has to get a lot tougher with who he lets into his life and who he feels sorry for and who he wants to heal and help because he's a real target.

KING: We'll ask his brothers tomorrow.

One other thing I didn't cover. Were you surprised -- I know you left the case -- were you surprised at the Robert Blake verdict?

MESEREAU: No, I was not. As you may recall, I did the three- week preliminary hearing in that case.

KING: I remember.

MESEREAU: I thought the case was full of holes and full of problems.

KING: You told me that.

MESEREAU: I was not surprised at all.

KING: You told me then you thought he would win.


KING: Sorry you left it?

MESEREAU: No. You know, life goes on. We had a falling out and those things happen in the high-pressure world of criminal defense. But he hired a very, very excellent lawyer who did a very excellent job and he's free.

KING: Interesting thing about Thomas Mesereau, born in West Point, father, lieutenant colonel; worked for his in-laws restaurant business, Mama Leone's, one of the most successful restaurants ever in America, famous in New York; was an amateur boxer; and represented defendants in death penalty cases in the south, pro bono, didn't charge; gives free legal assistance through the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A. -- were you glad about that apology yesterday, for slavery and (INAUDIBLE) hangings?

MESEREAU: Well, what -- you know, Larry, yesterday was a wild day. Which apology...

KING: The Senate -- the Senate apologized for the treatment in the past of the American black.

MESEREAU: I'm absolutely in favor of that, if that's the way it was done and it was articulated properly, I am absolutely behind that.

KING: Are you looking forward to a lot more criminal cases? I mean, you're famous, widespread now. You know, it's obvious you're going to get a lot of calls. Are you ready for an onslaught of new business?

MESEREAU: No, I'm ready to get some sleep.

KING: But you seriously know you're going to get a lot of attention now?

MESEREAU: I'm sure I will, and, you know, I'll take it as it comes. I have strong views about my profession. I love what I do. I have a strong belief in civil rights and in making sure our justice system works and we'll just move forward. I feel very blessed by god to have been in the case.

KING: How many partners in your firm?

MESEREAU: Just four partners. It's a small firm.

KING: Might you expand?

MESEREAU: I don't know. We'll have to take it as it comes. I don't have any plans, other than to get some sleep, see my family and friends and move forward.

KING: Take a vacation for a while?

MESEREAU: I could definitely use one, yes.

KING: Thomas, thank you so much for a very informative hour. I appreciate you giving us an hour. We know how tired you are.

MESEREAU: Well, thank you for having me.

KING: Thomas Mesereau, very successful defense attorney, quite a career, quite a life, quite a story.

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