Michael Jackson’s defense attorney Tom Mesereau visited ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ on Friday night to discuss the singer’s acquittal on all ten counts in his child molestation trial. Mesereau was critical of CourtTV and DA Tom Sneddon, and reasoned that media spin is to blame for the majority of Americans who felt he was guilty. Asked why Sneddon was out to get the singer, he responded, “You know, I don’t know exactly why he got so interested in Michael Jackson, but. He flew to Australia at one point in the mid-90s, to try and find an alleged victim. And the person said, ‘Take a a hike, get out of here.’ You know? He had a website at the sheriff’s department to try and see if he could find witnesses to build a case. It was like an open casting call on Michael Jackson. And the best they could come up with was this family that we thoroughly discredited from A to Z. From A to Z.” Read on for a rough transcript.
Jay: As you all know, my first guest successfully defended Michael Jackson in a a three-month trial that attracted worldwide attention to say the least. Please welcome Tom Mesereau.
[ Cheers and applause ]
Jay: First off, thank you so much for coming. We kind of play different roles in these things. I’m a comedian, and my job obviously is to make light of all of this. And you’re, of course, as a a defense attorney, take it all very seriously. You know, the Michael, sort of, we see is obviously different from the one that you knew. Tell us — we all know the one that we know. Tell us about the one you know.
Tom: The Michael Jackson I know is a very sensitive, honest, down-to-earth, kind-hearted person. Much more simple in his taste than you probably think. Very kind-hearted. Loves people, loves to help people who are in trouble. He’s too nice to too many people, and that’s how he got in the trouble he was in.
Tom: But he’s one of my favorite human beings. He’s misunderstood. And one of my jobs in the trial was to make sure the jury understood who he was. And I think they did, and that’s why they acquitted him of every count.
Jay: Now you refer to him and you make this point of innocence versus not guilty. Explain.
Tom: Well, he’s innocent of these charges. And Michael is the kind of person, when you sit down with him and get to know him and hear his philosophy of life and what he would like to achieve in life, you realize he could never hurt a child, that he never has hurt a child. Now, thousands and thousands of children and their parents have flocked to Michael Jackson all over the world. A couple suddenly invented some claims and wanted money. And he made a mistake in the early ’90s of paying them money to get rid of them. And it was really insignificant money, given what he was making. He’s probably grossed over a a billion dollars in his life. And all of his business advisers were saying, “Michael, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Just pay whatever it takes. Get rid of the cases.” Unfortunately, once he did that, others thought they could get an easy payday, you know, as well. And hence, he got in this kind of trouble.
Jay: Do you believe in all your clients? Is that an important part of your defense? Do you personally have to believe or can you defend someone you don’t quite believe but maybe the law has been violated? You know what
Tom: There are two major purposes that I have in my progression. One is to make sure that innocent people like Michael Jackson are not convicted. And two, to make sure this system works so prosecutors and cops don’t abuse their power. Because if you let them do it, they will routinely do it, and they have throughout American history.
Jay: Now does it bother you that I think only 34% of the public did not believe the verdict.
Tom: It does bother me. Because it’s a result of spin from the media and not knowing the evidence. If you really looked at the evidence in the case, they had nothing. They had absolutely nothing. And networks like Court TV did their best to spin a a conviction. But you can’t spin a a conviction. You’ve got to have evidence to support it. The evidence wasn’t there.
Jay: Let me ask you about the jury for a second. Now, I know you were instrumental in picking the jury. And again, I’ve been told this, that Michael was quite concerned that there was no African-Americans — I mean, literally like, what’s going on here?
Tom: Well, Michael’s from a a prominent African-American family. And as you would expect, he was hoping to have some African-American representation on the jury. But I got to tell you, once the jury was picked, I had no problem with this jury. I thought they were a very strong-willed, independent-minded people. Smart. Nobody was going to push them around, and they were going to follow the law and do the right thing. And that’s exactly what they did.
Jay: So how do you pick a a jury? I mean, what do you look for in a case like this? ‘Cause, you know, I have to admit, watching the sidelines, this one’s a parent, three children. This one’s a postal worker possibly or something. Those seem like pretty conservative — this seems like a little out of main stream. I mean, not out of the — you know, not Hollywood, kind of wacky, you know.
Tom: I wasn’t worried about conservative people. Santa Maria is a conservative community. The communities around Santa Maria are conservative. What I wanted were people who I thought were strong willed, independent-minded and open to look at the evidence and not be hook-winked or influenced by outside forces, which were trying to basically spin the case in a way that wasn’t realistic. We got some very honorable, courageous people, and they did the right thing.
Jay: Did it bother you that some of the jurors came out afterwards and said they think he might have been guilty of something in the past but couldn’t prove it this time?
Tom: Well, they think he might have been. That’s like saying, you know, we suspected but nothing’s ever been proven. Because nothing was proven. The prosecution in an act of desperation tried to say he molested people in the past. They mentioned three young men, all of whom came in, one of whom was macauayulknd1 3 said nothing ever happened to us. We were not molested. They mentioned a fourth person who never showed up, and they mentioned a fifth person who showed up and said, “I was tickled improperly, and I wanted money and I took it,” after denying that it had happened. His mother took money, and she also sold the story to a a tabloid.
Jay: It didn’t seem like there were ever any young girls there. I mean, we hear of children going to Neverland, but it all seems to be boys.
Tom: False, absolutely false. Women testified that they stayed in his room. And by the way, his room is a a two-story duplex, a huge duplex. That’s what we call his room.
Tom: And women stayed there, mothers stayed there, parents stayed there, kids stayed there. And any time a child came up to him and said, “we want to play in your room,” which he has arcade games and that kind of thing, he always said, “I want your parents here right now, and I want their permission.” And the parents were free to stay. And we had parents testify who did stay. So a lot of this was spin by the prosecution because they wanted to y and onto him they had nothing to deal with in the courtroom.
Jay: Is he childlike? I mean, it’s almost hard for me to believe that a polished entertainer — I mean, when you spend time with him, it is like spending time with a child?
Tom: He is childlike. And he’s been very vocal when interviewed about why he is childlike. He had no childhood. He was working clubs at 3:00 in the morning when he was a very small child. He said he used to gaze to schoolyards and wonder what it was like to be just a a spontaneous kid. He couldn’t so that. He was disciplined very strictly. And feels as if he never really had a free and spontaneous childhood. And he also — he also is just — he feels as if he’s been let down by adults most of his life. He was child, asked to sign papers. He didn’t know what money was. All his money was spinning all around him. He got taken advantage of, and he has an empathy for children because he thinks children need more attention in the world. He’s helped kids with aids around the planet. He’s helped kids with all sorts of diseases. Ryan white, the young man who had AIDS and died of it, he took care of him. When a little child in the early ’80s was doused with gasoline by his father in orange county, Michael paid his bills. He’s paid bills for injured children all around the world. A lot of this, the prosecution tried to bury, because they wanted to make him look like a a monster. And they failed.
Jay: When that documentary came out, and Michael said about sharing your bed and that type of thing, what should the prosecution have done? I mean, when people say — let’s say I live in a a neighborhood and I know there’s a 45-year-old man over there. I see young boys going in and out, other children going in and out. And I hear rumors of alcohol, rumors of pornography, locks on the doors, should they not have investigated?
Tom: Well, first of all, what he said in the documentary was, “I gave this child my bed, and I slept on the floor. And I’ve never done anything sexual with a child.” That’s in the documentary. There’s also some outtakes there were not included in the documentary where he even expanded on that. He said, “I would slit my wrists before I would a hurt a a child.” Okay, so the prosecution tried to spin this so that you didn’t know that’s in the documentary. The second thing is, yes, if you think there is a valid claim of child molestation, you should investigate. And they did. 70 officers raided Neverland. They couldn’t find any forensic evidence to support the claims. No DNA, no hair, no fiber, no fluids, nothing.
Jay: Is that uncommon? I mean — well, I’ll tell you what. We’ll take a break. And we’ll follow up in this line. Permission to treat him as a a hostile witness. Be right back. Tom Mesereau, ladies and gentlemen.
[ Cheers and applause ]
Jay: Welcome back. Talking with Tom Mesereau, the lead defense attorney in the Michael Jackson trial. It is fascinating to hear your side of it. We were just talking about DNA evidence. And you mentioned, when they went to the Neverland ranch, they found not a trace of DNA evidence. No fluids, no hair.
Tom: No trace of it.
Jay: Is that — I mean, people who are pedophiles –is that common? That they would, sort of, be very careful or no, you don’t think?
Tom: Well, I don’t know what the answer to that is. But, certainly, they do find, in this day and age, dna. It’s an easy thing to find. And it lasts for, you know, hundreds of years. So, it’s significant. They couldn’t find any forensic evidence whatsoever, to prove this crime, okay. Because the crime didn’t happen.
Jay: Let me ask you about the jury. I was sort of stunned to hear that the jury was not sequestered. Because this is all anybody has talked about. And if I’m on that jury and I walk in to McDonald’s or anywhere. Someone is gonna go, “hey.” You’re gonna hear something. It’s on every TV. It’s on every radio, you hear jokes, you hear information that maybe they shouldn’t be privy to. Weren’t you worried about it?
Tom: I really wasn’t. The judge was a very, very good judge. He had the full respect of the jury, I could tell. And he told them very clearly, “You cannot listen to any media. You cannot expose yourself to any outside influence. You must follow the law and look at the evidence in the courtroom.” And, in my opinion, sequestered juries tend to be uncomfortable juries. You know, they’re confined. They have limitations. People are watching them. Generally, I don’t like it. And I really had a feeling they’d be fair and they were.
Jay: Yeah. The media circus, were you surprised at the extent of people hiding in the bushes, seeing whether you put two sugars in your coffee?
Tom: No, I wasn’t surprised. I expected that. I mean, this had real international interest. You know, Michael is a a megastar. He is popular all over the world. And we had support all over the world for our side. So, I’m not surprised.
Jay: Now, they’re not aloud to watch the pundits, but you, when you go home, would you turn it on and see what some of the experts were saying?
Tom: Once in a while. I was working very hard. Normally, I read three newspapers a day. I wasn’t reading any except on the weekend. So, once in a while, for a a break I would. And, generally, I was pretty unimpressed.
Jay: Yeah. Were they accurate?
Tom: Generally, no.
Jay: Agenda? Did they have an agenda?
Tom: Oh, take Court TV, for example. I’d always been a fan of Court tv. I’d always respected Court TV, particularly when Steve Brill was running it. In this particular case, in my opinion, they became a tabloid. They had their own agenda. They misstated the facts. They didn’t understand the significance of what was going on in the courtroom, and that’s why their major critics were stunned by the verdict. And why, now, they’re trying to say, “there’s something wrong with the jury. They’re something wrong with the system.” They were humiliated because they never really understood what was going on in the courtroom.
Jay: Now, the district attorney, Sneddon, is he a fair guy?
Tom: In my opinion, no. In this particular case, he had a personal vendetta against Michael Jackson. He wasn’t objective. He saw things that didn’t exist. When you’re not objective, when you are too personally involved, you can really mischaracterize your case. And he mischaracterized his case from day one.
Jay: I mean, was he — because of the events from 10 years ago?
Tom: You know, I don’t know exactly why he got so interested in Michael Jackson, but. He flew to Australia at one point in the mid-90s, to try and find an alleged victim. And the person said, “take a a hike, get out of here.” You know? He had a website at the sheriff’s department to try and see if he could find witnesses to build a case. It was like an open casting call on Michael Jackson. And the best they could come up with was this family that we thoroughly discredited from A to Z. From A to Z.
Jay: Now, have you talked to Michael since the verdict?
Tom: Oh, sure.
Jay: And how’s he doing?
Tom: He is very drained, physically and emotionally. He was dehydrated. He had trouble eating and sleeping. He’s gonna have to spend time recovering.
Jay: Let me ask you a a question. And this is something I saw people speculate on. Every time it seemed like the trial was going one way or the other, he would go to the hospital. And — I don’t mean this to be flippin’, but — there’s the umbrella guy, and there’s the magician, why isn’t there a doctor with him all the time? Why would he have to get up?
[ Light laughter ] No, I am not being a wise guy. I mean, it seems like in the middle of the night, he would be taken to the hospital. I mean, it seems like he could have a staff of physicians there, sort of, around-the-clock.
Tom: I’ve never asked him that question. He has had personal physicians, certainly, in the past. He didn’t intend to make these trips to the hospital. He had legitimate physical problems.
Tom: I mean, he has a very serious back problem. And he had serious — he really had emotional problems. He had trouble eating and sleeping. Michael was not emotionally built for this kind of a a process. Month after month of sitting in a courtroom, listening to all this nonsense thrown at you. Knowing your life and your freedom are on the line. It was a very hard process for him, emotionally.
Jay: Now, I know a lot of people are critical of you. But I know you do an awful lot terrific within different communities. Is that why you took this?
Tom: [missing text] A long time. He’s a good friend of mine. He asked me if I would talk to Michael about his case. And I flew to Florida and met Michael. I talked to him extensively about it. And I just — very quickly — and I am a very intuitive person. I said, “this cannot be the monster they’re portraying. What is this?” Because what they were saying was that this kid had cancer, and that he intentionally applied him with alcohol so he could molest him. And you get to know Michael, and you say, “This is absurd.” They were also saying he masterminded a conspiracy to abduct a family to Brazil. Michael Jackson wouldn’t even know how to conceive of such a a thing. Michael Jackson is an artist. He is a creative spirit. He likes to sit in a tree and compose music. You know, and he freely says that.
Jay: That’s where my part comes in. Sitting in the tree. I have to do the sitting in the tree joke.
Tom: Well, he was climbing trees. He says, “other people like football and baseball. I like climbing trees.” He freely admits that.
Jay: Well, tom, I appreciate coming here and telling us your side of the story. Thank you very much.