Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

No Courtroom Cameras, No Court TV

Its stock declining.
No cameras in the courtroom.
Court TV bankrupt?
With states across the country tailoring their courtroom camera coverage rules based on the erroneous belief that cameras in the Simpson trial had turned that case into a “media circus”, Court TV was worried about its viability, given that its entire reason for existing depended on camera coverage of court proceedings.
I say “erroneous belief” because it was cameras outside the courtroom and outside the courthouse that created the circus. Simpson was no more of a circus that countless high-profile trials that did not have courtroom camera coverage, such as the 2005 Michael Jackson child-molestation trial in Santa Barbara County and the 2004 Scott Peterson murder trial in Redwood City, California.

Like OJ, MJ is News that Never Dies

Just like O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson is a news evergreen, meaning that he is always good for a headline, even now, five years after Jackson died.

Today’s headline actually first became big news more than 20 years ago. The case was Chandler vs. Jackson and got no further than a pretrial hearing in 1993 in Santa Monica, California. By comparison, the media swarm that smothered the courthouse and surroundings made the Rodney King-beating trial the year before look like a moonscape. The lawyers representing plaintiff, a minor male, and defendant Michael Jackson, settled without going to trial. The $40 million settlement, according to the quacking ducks of the day, was hush money. So here’s today’s headline:

Report: Michael Jackson paid $200M in hush money to alleged molestation victims

According to this story, Chandler was one of 20 Jackson accusers “hush money” went to.

Here’s the story. You can read it for yourself.

I, BTW, had no opinion, in fact, no interest in Jackson or who he did what with, but I sure was glad that 1993 civil lawsuit was settled, hush money or no. After surviving the Rodney King-beating trial, there was no way I wanted to drown in the deluge of media that would be sure to swamp Santa Monica to cover a Michael Jackson-molestation trial.

Little did I know that a marathon of a notorious trial that became known as The People vs. Orenthal James Simpson was waiting in the wings.

It’s Leaking, It’s Pouring

Leaked information continued to plague Simpson trial judge Lance Ito, who wanted desperately to have a relatively uncontaminated pool of prospective jurors available for the jury selection process, which was still weeks away on this date twenty years ago. One move Ito considered was to issue a restrictive order, commonly called a gag order, which would order the parties to the case and their staff to refrain from making public statements or to talk to the media about the case. Ito probably knew what criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, who represented such notables as celebrities Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, and (subsequently) convicted murderer Scott Peterson, once noted:  Lawyers, particularly prosecutors, in a court case can easily have surrogates, such as those in law enforcement, pass information along to the news media that the lawyers want to make known. Leaks also dominated my daily haiku. Here’s the one I wrote on Aug. 30, 1994.

To gag or not to,

Will an order stop the leaks?

It won’t solve the case.

Despite Coverage, Pistorius is No OJS

Expert: Screaming gives Pistorius ‘major problem’ is the most recent headline I’ve seen about the murder trial of South African double amputee Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. I see headlines like that only because I set an Oscar Pistorius Google News Alert and because they occasionally appear on my AOL daily news feed.

For months before the Pistorius trial began, pundits predicted that it would equal or eclipse the 1995 O.J. Simpson criminal trial in terms of public interest and media coverage, which includes cameras in the courtroom.

While it has gotten extensive coverage, now that the case in deep in the prosecution’s evidence presentation phase, it is clearly nowhere close to the international phenomenon of the Simpson trial, or even the 2005 Michael Jackson child-molestation trial, both in California.

The fact that these are not nightly news or daily newspaper headlines in this country give evidence that the Pistorius trial has yet to rise to the level of an international notorious trial, a la Simpson and Jackson.

This anecdote is telling:

In the early stages of the Simpson trial, a lawyer friend of the trial judge, Lance Ito, told him about a trip she had just returned from that included a stay in Tibet where all anybody had to say was “the trial” and everybody knew without question the reference was to the O.J. Simpson trial. I venture to guess that nothing close to that is occurring with Pistorius in Tibet or most countries other than South Africa.

Also, during the Jackson trial, hordes of Jackson fans in countries around the globe not only followed it, but rallied in support of him in large gatherings and other venues. I don’t see that happening–either in support of or against–Oscar Pistorius.

It is, though, an interesting trial to follow.

Scoring Geragos, Snarky or Not

A friend sent me the following message the other day commenting on noted criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos (Scott Peterson, Winona Ryder and, briefly, Michael Jackson) who is a CNN commentator on the George Zimmerman trial.

 “Jerrianne, in “Anatomy of a Trial” you quote celebrity attorney Mark Garagos as ripping the media for focusing on the “who’s winning, who’s losing” angles in trial coverage. But he’s doing exactly the same thing every day on cable TV coverage of the Zimmerman trial. Would be good if he could walk his talk. Hypocritical not to do so, don’t you think?”

Here’s my reply:

Sure seems so …. I haven’t seen his Zimmerman punditry, but someone else remarked at how snarky he is. Disappointing. Although he came across to me as passionate about his work as a defense attorney, he was always a gentleman with me.

Here’s the Geragos reference in my book my friend was talking about:

And if a high-profile case is in the spotlight, defense attorney Mark Geragos says in a Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review article, reporters “discuss the case as if they observe minute-by-minute action. The news story begins to take on the ESPN sports model, where journalists report that the prosecution had a good day, the defense is playing catch up, the witness took a beating, etc.”

I hadn’t seen Geragos on CNN, so I went through a few of his appearances that CNN has archived.

He’s pretty strident, that’s for sure.

In one he gets into a back and forth with another commentator about the appropriateness of Zimmerman lawyer Don West’s daughter’s post on Instagram and whether it does or should affect the trial in any way.

In another he’s more than a little critical of the prosecution and how it’s presenting it’s case.

I didn’t view them all, so possibly missed the one or more that my friend referred to. Maybe I’ll try again. If you want to, here’s the link to the archived segments:


What Difference Do Cameras Make?

“Is it really the trial of the century if only a few can see it?”

That is the question raised by a Boston Herald story about the James “Whitey” Bulger-trial camera ban. “Massive media contingent not daunted by camera ban”  http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/06/massive_media_contingent_not_daunted_by_camera_ban

My question is, would the Bulger case be the trial of the century — or a trial of the century, given that a good half-dozen trials held in the 20th Century were called the trial of the century — if cameras were not banned?

In my experience with dozens of trials of significant media interest, including a few that might fall into “the trial of the century” bailiwick, cameras access might affect how news organizations cover a trial, but not necessarily whether they will cover it or the level of public interest in it.

That was my conclusion in one of the most popular stories published in the National Center for State Courts The Court Manager was my 1997 “What A Difference A Lens Makes,” which contrasts media coverage and public interest in two cases that had two trials each; one with cameras and one without. http://www.anatomyofatrial.com/pages/images/Difference1_000.jpghttp://www.anatomyofatrial.com/pages/images/Difference2_000.jpg

The 1995 O.J. Simpson criminal trial, involving the murders of Simpson ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman, had camera coverage. The subsequent wrongful death civil trial didn’t. The 1993 Menendez brothers parricide trial had camera coverage, the 1996 retrial did not.

My belief is bolstered when I name several high-profile trials at presentations I do about high-profile trials and ask the people attending which of those trials had camera coverage. Most get at least one wrong.

My list generally includes:

  • Martha Stewart insider trading
  • Rodney King beating
  • Scott Peterson murder
  • Michael Jackson child molestation
  • Heidi Fleiss pandering
  • Menendez brothers parricide (yes and no)
  • William Kennedy Smith rape
  • Casey Anthony murder

So whether or not the Bulger trial rises (or sinks, depending on one’s point of view) to a “trial of the century” level will depend far more on how the media cover it than on whether their cameras can record or air it to the public.

Is Michael Jackson’s Family Really Due His Loss?

Below is the tagline for the story, “Michael Jackson’s life and death back in spotlight in new trial” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/28/entertainment-us-michaeljackson-aeg-idUSBRE93R04J20130428

” … the bizarre life and sorry demise of Michael Jackson will play out again in a $40 billion civil trial that pits the singer’s family against the organizers of a musical comeback that never happened.”

Uh, $40 BILLION? Seriously?

I thought the record (at the time in 1999) $4.9 billion judgment against GM for the dangerous fuel-tank-placement design of its 1979 Malibu was an eyebrow raiser — and apparently the trial judge and, later. appellate court, thought so, too, when they slashed the judgment by more than $3 billion, but keep it at a stratosphere level.

In that case, four children–one just 7 years old–were severely burned, required countless surgeries and other years-long medical treatment and care. The 7-year-old, whom I saw in court when she was 12, was grotesquely disfigured–despite having had more than 70 surgeries at that point and was facing many more–and had lost fingers on one hand.

The plaintiffs in the latest Michael Jackson gold-digging case — and I say that because what have any of the people involved in these Jackson post-mortem lawsuits done to deserve any of the largess that would be part of his estate, except for the luck of having been related to him and being professional hangers-on.

Even the three children, Paris, Prince and Blanket (can you believe it, Blanket?) are no pauvre enfants, having lived all of their young lives in ostentatious luxury and can undoubtedly write their very own eye-popping tickets in any number of ways.

So what’s behind this $40 BILLION lawsuit? Is the point to teach the defendant AEG Live a lesson? Like what? That AEG shouldn’t have let a 50-year-old man who made lots of other decisions, however questionable or bizarre, about his life hire a doctor who gave him too much and a bad mix of drugs? Or that AEG shouldn’t have hired the doctor directly and, therefore, is responsible? What? Michael Jackson didn’t have hire-fire rights? And neither did his “shy, retiring, unassertive” family?

And where was this loving, caring, concerned family in the month run-up to Michael’s death when supposedly the doctor in question, Conrad Murray, was giving him the same potent mix of narcotics and sedatives every night to get him to sleep? Did they not know? Really? Was it only after Michael died that they became alarmed?

From what I understand, the $40 billion is supposed to represent the financial loss to Jackson (Michael, not his family) and his–HIS–Michael Jackson Enterprises–because he died before he could perform in the concert tour AEG was producing. Seems to me that would be Michael’s financial loss, not his family’s, and since he’s no longer here, how should his family be able to cash in on his loss?

So this is a wrongful-death lawsuit. Wrongful death. The doctor, Conrad Murray, has already faced criminal charges and is serving a four-year prison sentence. Maybe his family deserves some compensation for the loss of his companionship. Although considering that the only job they had was to be his family in the decades that Michael was becoming a mega-star and makings lots of money, which they shared in, it seems to me that they’re the ones who were negligent or irresponsible. Is there such a thing as wrongful family?

But even if they can legitimately sue AEG for wrongful death. I have grave doubts that they’ve been burned to the tune of $40 billion?

To Shield or Not to Shield

When I worked as a newspaper journalist, I strongly favored strong shield laws. Reporters needed to be able to protect their sources or they would be out of business. Pretty cut and dried.

When I left the newspaper industry to become the Los Angeles County court system’s information officer,  I became less dogmatic. The primary reason was a fuzzying of just who legitimately could be identified as a journalist and what exactly comprised the news media.

The question arose when a judge got a request from a tabloid TV show to let their camera record a civil court proceeding.

It came up several times during the O.J. Simpson criminal and civil trials. One man presented an expired “Writers Union” membership card as a media credential. Another man confessed the news outlet he listed as his employer was no more than a gleam in his brain. Yet another man who had never worked as a journalist  insisted that his intent to publish somewhere, he had yet to determine where, what he would observe in the courtroom entitled him to a media seat.

And the Santa Barbara court executive officer asked me, when I served as a consultant on the Michael Jackson child-molestation case, to help him formulate guidelines that would enable his staff to differentiate real journalists from wanna-bes or pretenders.

That is a question embedded in a debate in Massachusetts, which has no specific shield law on its books.  More overt in the discussion is whether that state’s common law privilege is adequate in protecting journalists from being required to reveal their unnamed sources and/or produce unpublished or unaired  information gathered or prepared in the course of news gathering.

New life for a media shield law


A Massachusetts state legislator who is a former newspaper publisher wants to end that ambiguity by having a specific law on the books.  In addition to clearing up the current common-law ambiguity, I hope the folks in the Bay State come up with a way to clarify the murky waters of whom its shield law would cover.

An Asinine Camera Ruling

Why, for crying out loud?

No cameras allowed in the courtroom for Michael Jackson civil trial


This seems like a particularly asinine  ruling.

What is this judge afraid of? Nobody’s life or liberty is at stake. No national security risks. Not even a very real danger of the so-called media circus.

This is a humdrum civil lawsuit filed by a bunch of rich-by-proxy people who are trading on the name of their deceased celebrity relative.

It’s rulings like this that perpetuates the judiciary’s remote, controlling, ivory-towered reputation.

It’s Baaaaacccck! The Specter of Michael Jackson

AP Special Correspondent and doyenne of high-profile-trial reporters Linda Deutsch shared a link to her story about yet another Michael Jackson lawsuit in the Los Angeles courts along with this question:

“Ready for another Jackson trial?”


My reply:

How many remember the first — Chandler vs. Jackson — in 1993? Well, it no doubt wasnt’ the first Jackson court fracas and it didn’t even go to trial — settled pretrial, but not without a media melee outside the Santa Monica courthouse at a pretrial hearing that more than rivaled the Rodney King-beating trial up the freeway in Simi Valley the previous year. Family members must be pros by now.