Guest: Brett Pulley, Gerry Spence, Paul Pfingst, Marshall Hennington, Maureen Orth
ANNOUNCER: MSNBC REPORTS: “The Michael Jackson Trial.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The felony complaint involves seven counts of 288-A, commonly known as child molestation.
MICHAEL JACKSON, ACCUSED OF CHILD MOLESTATION: Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court. I deserve a fair trial, like every other American citizen. A large amount of ugly, malicious misinformation has been released to the media about me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Michael Jackson tells the world he‘s innocent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: The information is disgusting and false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: And now the stage is set for what could become one of the most sensational criminal trials in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The case is going to be very contentious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regardless of what happens in this courthouse, we know he‘s innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: How did one of the most celebrated and successful entertainers end up here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: Through the years, I have helped thousands of children who were ill or in distress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: And just how strong is the evidence?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My gut tells me the prosecution has a very strong case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, inside Michael Jackson‘s child molestation trial
· the lawyers, the jurors...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The defense will be looking for people who will believe this is all about the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: ... the spectacle...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Innocent!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Innocent!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: ... and the defendant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Santa Maria, California, Dan Abrams.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Hi, everyone. Day one of the People of California versus Michael Jackson, where Jackson has now faced some of the people, potential jurors who‘ll decide if he‘s guilty of molesting a teenage boy at his Neverland ranch two years ago.
Lots to get to, but first let‘s set the scene. Jackson arrived at the courthouse in all white, a jewel-trimmed vest and belt and a gold armband. He was meet with screams and cheers from dozens of fans, arriving without his family, in a trial that‘s expected to last up to six months. Jackson seemed upbeat and friendly, grinned as the first jurors came in. Some 300 arrived, and nearly 50 percent said they could serve on the long trial. The charges against Jackson: one count of conspiracy, one count of attempted lewd act upon a child, four counts of lewd acts upon a child, four counts of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in commission of a felony. Jackson pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Joining me now to talk about what has just happened today are Maureen Orth, special correspondent for “Vanity Fair” magazine, and NBC News‘s Mike Taibbi, and also joining me from here in Santa Maria is Dawn Hobbs, legal affairs reporter for “The Santa Barbara News Press,” who‘s also an MSNBC news analyst and was in the courtroom today.
All right, let me start with you, Dawn, since you were in the courtroom. How did Michael Jackson strike you inside?
DAWN HOBBS, “SANTA BARBARA NEWS PRESS,” MSNBC ANALYST: Dan, when Michael Jackson walked in, he sat down with his lawyers, seemed very relaxed. He leaned back in the chair, kicked his feet out a little, was laughing with his attorneys a little bit. And then it seemed that they got engaged in a very quiet discussion. He maintained eye contact with Thomas Mesereau and spoke quietly with him. When the jurors walked in, then Mr. Jackson and his team stood up. He buttoned up his suit, and everybody grinned—he smiled at the jurors as they walked in. In contrast, prosecutor Ron Zonen was very straight-faced.
ABRAMS: Yes. Maureen, the bottom line is somebody told Michael Jackson to start behaving.
MAUREEN ORTH, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, “VANITY FAIR”: Absolutely, because when I saw him here two years ago in the civil trial is when he was making all the faces and he was sort of sloppily dressed and he didn‘t take it seriously at all. He has really gotten his act together for today, shaped up. He looks thinner. He walks more purposefully. And obviously, he realizes how serious this is.
ABRAMS: Mike, you were in there for—listening to most of the jury selection today. What struck you as the process continued today?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it‘s a routine in criminal trials, but there‘s so much attention focused on this because it is Michael Jackson.
I was interested in the demeanor of the judge, Judge Rodney Melville. You‘ve spoken about him a lot on your show. This is a guy who controls his courtroom with an iron fist. He has, as you know, lectured the DA, he‘s lectured Michael Jackson for being late, he‘s demanded immediate payment from one of Jackson‘s attorneys for failing to follow his instructions in cross-examining a witness at a prior hearing. Today, he seemed to be talking about sort of the American part of this process. This is—didn‘t you get that sense, that, This is your duty, it‘s an obligation, it‘s not a privilege for you, it‘s an obligation...
ABRAMS: Did it seem like jurors wanted to serve?
ORTH: Yes. I mean, when—the first question the judge asked was, How many of you think you can serve, and boom, hands shot up.
ABRAMS: For a six-month trial.
ABRAMS: I mean, that‘s the thing. We‘re not just talking about a week or two off.
ABRAMS: It means if you‘ve got a real job, that this becomes your job.
ORTH: It‘s your job.
TAIBBI: I don‘t think it‘s because it‘s the 15 minutes of fame that serving on a jury in a prominent case is going to get them. These are people who I think are interested in the case. They responded to what Judge Melville was saying, and they were saying, Yes, I can do this for six months...
ABRAMS: And so Dawn, where do we stand in terms of the jury selection process now? How far are we? And what, it was about 50 percent of the people said they were available to serve on this kind of trial?
HOBBS: Yes, about 50 percent said they were. The ones that requested the judge dismiss them, it was mostly for financial hardship issues. You know, as you know, a six-month trial, a lot of employers will not pay for that. What you end up with, however, specific to this community then, I believe will be the largest employers, the Vandenberg Air Force Base, the county governments, as well as the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. Now, those sort of places will pay. So you will end up with a lot of those types of jurors.
Now, some of them came up with some very interesting stories today about why they were requesting to be off the jury. One man said that he did want to be on. He was on electronic home monitoring and said that his probation officer indicated that he couldn‘t.
HOBBS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two more weeks. And he says, I do want to be on. And so the judge said, OK, fine. We‘re going to go ahead and get this set up and get you off the electronic monitoring. Another man had spent—he told the judge that he had been in the county jail two years ago and had gotten into a little tiff with one black man, he said, and one white man. He said that he‘s not a racist but that he didn‘t want to be bitter and be on the jury and make the wrong decision. Another man...
ABRAMS: Yes, I don‘t think that either...
ABRAMS: I don‘t think either of these guys have to...
ABRAMS: I don‘t think either of these guys have to worry a whole lot about getting on the jury.
ORTH: Well, my favorite was the rocket launcher from Van—he said he launched satellites and he had to do the countdown, so he couldn‘t possibly serve on the jury!
TAIBBI: Yes, my favorite exchange was the one that actually resulted in some news today, where—the woman who said, I‘m an older woman, and I need to be home with my family. They lock jurors up, don‘t they, meaning that they might be sequestered. And the judge says, Well, it‘s not going to happen. And she said, Can you guarantee that I‘ll be home at night? And Judge Melville said, I‘m going home every night.
TAIBBI: And the place broke up. So bottom line, this jury—there‘s no plan to sequester this jury.
ABRAMS: All right, let‘s shift gears here. I want to talk about this statement Michael Jackson made this weekend, this in response to a leak of grand jury material. The judge actually approved this statement for Michael Jackson. Here‘s part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: In the last few weeks, a large amount of ugly, malicious information has been released into the media about me. Apparently, this information was leaked through transcripts in a grand jury proceeding where neither my lawyers nor I ever appeared. The information is disgusting and false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You know, Mike, I was surprised that the judge let him talk about the boy‘s—and the family, and saying, Look, I invited them into my home. He was sick. You know, that sounded to me pretty close to not just saying, I‘m innocent and I want to respond...
TAIBBI: ... testimony.
ABRAMS: Yes. Right?
TAIBBI: Well, he may not testify and probably won‘t testify.
ABRAMS: Right. This is it.
TAIBBI: Although we don‘t know that, but...
ABRAMS: Well, I don‘t think he‘s going to testify.
ORTH: And also, I was struck by the fact that he‘s supposed to be giving an interview and this is running over and over again. This, I thought, was supposed to be done by today. It wasn‘t supposed to be played over and over and over again, which is exactly what he wants to have happen.
ABRAMS: You know, I don‘t—and Dawn, let me ask you—I mean, I don‘t think it makes that much of a difference. The bottom line is, to me, the idea that Mike Jackson is saying he‘s innocent...
TAIBBI: Is not a scoop.
ABRAMS: It‘s not going to change anything. I mean, the bottom line is I don‘t think there was anyone out there saying, you know, Oh, you know, I don‘t know what to make of this, but, you know, now that I hear Michael Jackson say he‘s innocent, this changes everything.
HOBBS: Well, and Mike, actually, I wanted to put in, we—“The News Press” did do a story saying that we have information that Michael Jackson will likely testify. So you know, of course, this was...
TAIBBI: I don‘t believe it.
HOBBS: ... timed. It was planned—well, what we‘ve been told.
TAIBBI: Yes. I don‘t care who that—Mark Geragos used to say Scott Peterson. They all say it at the beginning of every—My client wants to get on the witness stand, I promise you. This is—there‘s no question in my mind that if that—the other bad acts from before 1993 -- the 1993 and other—if that doesn‘t come into this case, there is no way Michael Jackson is testifying. Just nohow. He just can‘t do it.
ORTH: I mean, the arrest warrant is 82 pages long. Let‘s wait to hear what all that evidence is. It‘s obviously not going to be...
ABRAMS: If he lets in the past acts, meaning the from ‘93, the stuff before that, it is possible, then, that Michael Jackson will testify. But I just think that is so much of a risk. Mike, were you surprised, though, to see the Jackson statement come out now? I mean, we—as Maureen pointed out, we‘ve been hearing about it, we‘ve been hearing about it, and there it is.
TAIBBI: Yes. Obviously, there were stories that it was coming out any day, any day now. I was surprised, as you were, at the depth and sort of the subtle texture of the statement itself. I was surprised that that was approved by the court because to this point, every statement that‘s been approved, whether it‘s been by Tom Mesereau or anyone else, has been very careful and almost neutral, emotionally neutral. And this was a very emotional statement.
ABRAMS: Any sense, Dawn, of why the judge—and I know this is speculation, but any sense why the judge allowed Jackson to say as much as he did?
HOBBS: I would imagine that Judge Melville allowed Jackson to say as much as he did is because of the amount of detail that came out in the grand jury leak. And so you know, which was un-cross-examined. You know, a judge is not presiding over it. It‘s a one-sided story. And that‘s what came out was a one-sided story. So I believe, in all fairness, what Judge Melville did was said, OK, go ahead and defend yourself.
ABRAMS: Are you surprised, Maureen, that we‘re here? I mean, you‘ve written articles in the past about Michael Jackson. You know, you wrote extensively about the ‘93 incident. And you know, the articles have basically suggested that he did much of what he‘s accused of doing. Are you surprised he‘s actually going to trial?
ORTH: No, I‘m really not at all because of—because of the amount of evidence from ‘93 that was never prosecuted because celebrity, obviously, comes into this so heavily. But also, there are so many similarities between the ‘93 case and this case that it seems like the modus operandi is very similar.
ABRAMS: The ‘93 case was stronger than this case, though.
ORTH: Yes, it was.
ABRAMS: I mean, that—I mean, it really was.
ORTH: But at that point, they were—he was so much a bigger star and they were so afraid of his celebrity and putting up one little kid up against him. And since then, I think, his whole persona, his reputation, everything has changed to such an extent, they‘re willing to take the chance this time.
ABRAMS: Yes, but they didn‘t get—I don‘t think they got the family that they would have wanted. If they could have picked any family, this wouldn‘t have been it.
ORTH: Probably not.
TAIBBI: No, this is not the ideal family. And obviously, the defense position is going to be to attack their credibility. Don‘t forget, sort of an unremarked result of the hearing last week was that the prosecution asked that they not be allowed to attack the credibility of the family, and Judge Melville ruled, no, they can. That‘s...
ORTH: But let‘s face it, people who are accused of this kind of crime most of the time do not pick on Ozzie and Harriet families. It just wouldn‘t happen.
ABRAMS: Yes, but this is beyond not Ozzie and Harriet. I mean, you know, the fact that she‘d accused the J.C. Penney security guard of sexually assaulting her and of kidnapping the kids and—you know, it‘s a lot of problems in this case, a lot of problems.
All right, Maureen Orth, Mike Taibbi, Dawn Hobbs, to all of you, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
When we come back: What kind of person is fit to be a juror in a case against Michael Jackson? What would each side really want? And later, the price of Jackson‘s defense. Does he have the money to pay?
You‘re watching MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: I love my community, and I have great faith in our justice system. Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court. I deserve a fair trial, like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He‘s at the center of what is probably the celebrity trial of the century, at least so far, surrounded by screaming fans and TV crews from around the world. The question, as this jury selection process continues: Who is the ideal prosecution juror, and what is the defense looking for? Those are the questions that we‘re addressing today.
Joining me now, defense attorney extraordinaire, Gerry Spence, former prosecutor Paul Pfingst and jury consultant Marshall Hennington.
Gerry, let me start with you. If you‘re the defense attorney here, give us a sense of what you‘re looking for.
GERRY SPENCE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I‘m looking for somebody that can give this guy a fair trial, and there isn‘t anybody in the world that hasn‘t heard about that and hasn‘t already decided in his own mind what he‘s got—what he thinks. As a matter of fact, the judge is going to say, and the lawyers are going to say, Can you put all of this information that you‘ve received out of your mind? And the answer is, Oh, yes, I can. But the truth is, Oh, no, I really can‘t. And so the presumption of innocence is gone in this case, totally gone. And that‘s one of our constitutional rights.
So what am I looking for? I‘m looking for somebody that is, No. 1, intelligent, No. 2, that I feel comfortable with. When I select a jury, I like to think of a person that I might be sitting with out in a meadow, a nice meadow with trees and the forest around. And I—would be somebody that I‘d like to be with, that I could trust and who could trust me. And trust and credibility are going to ultimately be the issue here.
What you‘ve got here are people who are going to say, I want to be on this jury. Half of the people want to be on this jury? Well, who wants to give a half of their life—of their year‘s salary to sit on this jury? There‘s something has to be looked at very carefully there when a juror says, I want to be on this jury.
ABRAMS: Marshall Hennington, look, I think that you can find fair jurors. I disagree with Gerry in that regard, I think, particularly in a case like this, where the prosecutors definitely have holes in their case. So what do you—what do you look for? If you‘re advising the defense here, you say, We want what?
MARSHALL HENNINGTON, JURY CONSULTANT: Correct. If I am advising the defendants, I would definitely suggest that they get individuals that, A, have not had a history of sexual, emotional or physical abuse in the past, or they don‘t know of other individuals that have not (ph) had that type of situation occur in their lives. Additionally, I‘m also looking for independent thinkers, people that are not going to rush to judgment, people that question authority, people that have had bad experiences with law enforcement...
HENNINGTON: ... people who think that...
ABRAMS: Maybe some—maybe some false allegations made against them in some context?
ABRAMS: ... a divorce or something else?
HENNINGTON: Thank you, Dan. Thank you. Throw that in there, as well. Throw that in there, as well. And then additionally, I think that you‘re also looking at people that think that the government has possibly conspired against Michael Jackson to trump up these charges.
Also—this is very important here—I think that the defense is definitely going to be looking for individuals that do not believe because Michael Jackson paid off those other two cases, that that automatically means that he has committed any type of wrongdoing. And that‘s going to be very important in this case, to see if individuals will not hold him to a higher level of accountability than any ordinary citizen.
ABRAMS: Paul, do you think...
HENNINGTON: That‘s for the defendants.
ABRAMS: ... that jurors who—do you think the jurors, Paul, who actually make it onto this case should not know about the previous allegations? Is that too much to ask, that they have not even heard about these previous allegations?
PAUL PFINGST, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No, I think that‘s critical. I mean, really, if they‘ve heard that there are other cases out there, that somehow or another Michael Jackson skipped being prosecuted on, I think the defense would have a real legitimate complaint.
I think it‘s not too much to ask that the jurors that are selected don‘t know that there‘s a history of prior complaints of this nature against Michael Jackson. If the judge permits people on the jury who say, Yes, I do know that there were prior complaints, that is not a good thing for Michael Jackson, unless, of course, ultimately, the judge rules that these prior complaints do come in. If he makes that ruling, then the fact that the jurors knew them, then it‘s a wash. But that‘s not something that, if I were Tom Mesereau, I would want. Certainly, I‘d object strenuously.
ABRAMS: Yes, and we‘ll talk about that, and we‘ll talk about that in a minute. But Gerry, can I ask you hypothetically to play prosecutor here for a minute and tell me what you‘re looking for? Why I do get the feeling when I ask, What are you looking for as a prosecutor, you‘ll say, Anyone who‘s breathing? But give me a sense of what you‘re looking for here.
SPENCE: Well, a prosecutor is going—is going to look for people who are very structured, who respond in a very structured way, people who probably don‘t have too much of an open mind, people who have come to conclusions but won‘t admit it.
You know—you know, it‘s a given that you don‘t want people on this case who have racist problems, who have had children in—but—or who themselves have had—have never (ph) been molested in some way by somebody. And that covers a huge number in this population. So it‘s going to be a very difficult thing to find. But the prosecutor is sitting here in the cat—what is it, the cat seat chair? He‘s sitting here, knowing that his case has already been prosecuted in the media, that there isn‘t...
ABRAMS: Oh, come on!
SPENCE: ... a single person here that ultimately hasn‘t come to some kind of a conclusion. And you know it, and Dan Abrams, I wouldn‘t be surprised...
SPENCE: ... if you‘ve come to one.
ABRAMS: You know, Gerry, look, the—and you know what? As I said, and I—you know, look, I‘m very straight with my viewers. I said to them I think it‘s going to be a tough case for the prosecutors because of the problems with this victim‘s family.
SPENCE: Well, but you see, Dan—let me tell you something. There are not problems. You say it‘s a problem, it‘s a problem for the prosecutor, as if this guy is guilty and you have to get over these problems to get...
ABRAMS: No! As if I don‘t know! You know? Gerry, I didn‘t have my binoculars out that day when I was spying on Neverland. I don‘t know!
SPENCE: Well, I...
ABRAMS: I‘m basing it on what they‘re telling me.
SPENCE: I just wanted to give you a chance to say that maybe Michael Jackson is innocent and that...
SPENCE: ... the presumption of innocence applies to him.
ABRAMS: Let me tell you something. Let me tell you something, Gerry. And I‘m going to be honest with you now. I—and I‘ve said this before on the show...
SPENCE: Well, be honest with me all the time!
ABRAMS: I‘m going to. I do not believe that the presumption of innocence has to apply outside a courtroom. I don‘t. I don‘t think it should. I think that it would hamper all of us in our lives to be forced to presume—every—it would be presuming the police get it wrong in every case. I‘m not willing do that.
ABRAMS: In this particular case, though, I think that the evidence is very questionable, and as a result, it‘s going to be a very interesting case. Let me ask just quickly Marshall Hennington—race significant? Does it matter? Which way does it cut?
HENNINGTON: I believe that it definitely matters in this case. I actually suggested very early on that Mr. Mesereau should have tried to get a change of venue because that particular jury panel that they have up there is not a representative sample. It‘s not a diverse sample. And certainly, those individuals are not going to advocate strongly for Michael Jackson, if, in fact, they hear some of the...
ABRAMS: But does Michael Jackson...
ABRAMS: I mean, how much support does he have in the African-American community?
HOBBS: Well, I think that African-Americans as a whole are very forgiving people. You know, we tend to support people that have good hearts, good—you know, spirits, people that want to do well for society. And I think that Michael Jackson fits into that category, and I certainly believe that irregardless of what these allegations are that—African-Americans tend to keep a very open mind when it comes to these types of allegations. And so I believe that it would have worked to his advantage if, in fact, they would have perhaps tried this case in Los Angeles. That‘s a very unique venue. It‘s certainly a lot less conservative than Santa Maria, and I believe that he would have had more of an opportunity to have a fair trial in that particular venue.
Now, I want to talk about the prosecution‘s case.
ABRAMS: Quickly. Quickly.
HOBBS: OK, real quick. They‘re going to be looking for victims of sexual abuse. They‘re also going to be looking for individuals with small children. They‘re also going to be looking for individuals who are not star-struck, so to speak, because this is a high-profile celebrity trial and people get gooey-eyed and everything, and they tend to automatically have ulterior motives for getting on this trial, personal reasons, as well, for doing that.
They‘re also going to be looking for individuals that believe that because of the 1993 allegations, where there‘s smoke there perhaps is fire. Also, they‘re going to be looking for individuals that think that it is disgusting for a grown man to be sleeping with young children and also...
ABRAMS: Right. But that‘s...
HOBBS: ... allegedly showing the kiddy porn.
ABRAMS: Right. That‘s one...
SPENCE: ... obvious. I mean, you don‘t—you don‘t have to have...
ABRAMS: I got to take a break here.
ABRAMS: Everyone‘s going to stick around. Everyone‘s going to stick around. I promise, Gerry, you‘ll be able to—I‘ve got to bring Paul Pfingst back in, too. All right. And we‘re also going to talk about those past—this is—this is the ruling, in my mind. The question is going to be, Does the judge allow these jurors to hear about the past allegations? It will determine, I think, whether he takes the stand, and it could determine the outcome of this case. We‘ll talk about it in a moment.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, DEFENDANT: These events have caused a nightmare for my family, my children and me. I never intend to place myself in so vulnerable a position ever again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Well, I never intend to, and yet, some would say, he already had the opportunity not to do it again, because we‘re talking about jury selection starting in the Michael Jackson case.
And remember that there were allegations made back in 1993 against Jackson. And now here we are again.
So, Paul Pfingst, the law in California has changed since 1993 and, in fact, probably because of the Michael Jackson case. There is now—it‘s a lot easier to get in evidence of past allegations in a case like this.
PFINGST: You‘re absolutely right, Dan.
And it‘s changed so much that it‘s become relatively common in child sexual abuse cases if there‘s any prior history for that to come in. And it‘s a critical piece of evidence for prosecutors.
But I think what we have to take a look at in this case in deciding who should be on the jury for the defense is what the defense is. The defense is that this is a shakedown. The parents of this youngster intend to shake down Mike Jackson and get part of his fortune. And what the defense needs to do is find a group of people who will not like those parents, because I think we‘re going to find out that the defense is going after this youngster‘s parents like a heat-seeking missile and that‘s where this case is going to be for the defense. If you hate the parents, they put the kid up to it, and you must acquit.
ABRAMS: But how do you go after the parents, Gerry, without going after the kids? People say, oh, they‘re going to go after the mother. But the bottom line is, the kid is going to be 15 and his brother is going to be 14. And they‘re be sitting there on the witness stand, with Michael Jackson in that room, looking at him and saying, yes, that‘s the guy who molested me on repeated occasions, and the brother saying, that‘s the guy I saw molesting my brother.
They have to go after the kids on cross-examination hard.
SPENCE: Well, you don‘t have to go after a kid hard. You don‘t have to go after hard at all. You might go after this child in a very kindly way.
What does he really want to do? What is his desire in taking the stand here? There must be some things here that we could think about. His parents have been talking to him. The prosecutor has been talking to him. He‘s been talked to by the police. How many times has he been talked to by all of these people, where and under what circumstances?
ABRAMS: He‘s 15 years old now, though.
SPENCE: If he were you, I would talk to you the same way. How many times you been to see the prosecutor? What did you do?
And you don‘t have to be mean in cross-examination. As a matter of fact...
ABRAMS: I don‘t know.
SPENCE: I think—now, wait a minute, as a matter of fact, the most effective cross-examination is what I call a compassionate cross-examination, in which we kind of find out who the human being is on the other side that‘s talking to us.
SPENCE: And the most skillful cross-examination here, Dan, will be one that is done in a compassionate way with this child.
PFINGST: I want to say a couple...
ABRAMS: Let me take a quick break. Hang on. Quick, quick break.
Paul, I‘ll let you respond to that in a minute.
And, later, we‘re going to talk about, you know, the finances of Michael Jackson. Does he really have any money left? Coming up.
ABRAMS: Hundreds of fans and a pop star dressed all in white. The Michael Jackson trial is under way. We‘ve got more coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back talking about day one in the Michael Jackson case.
All right, so, Paul Pfingst, you heard the great Gerry Spence there saying that he thinks that the cross-examination of the accuser, who is now 15, and his brother, who is now 14 -- they were 13 and 12 at the time—they‘re the key to this case. They‘re the ones who say that Michael Jackson molested the boy or witnessed it.
Gerry is saying that you take a sort of compassionate approach to these boys. What do you make of it?
PFINGST: Well, I love the love that Gerry was giving to these people. But I‘m not sure that that is going to the case, because, at the end of the day, if Michael Jackson is going to walk away with this, he has to say the boys are lying. And he has to say they‘re lying and somebody put them up to ti. And the people who put them up to it are his folks.
And he‘s going to have to make it a conspiracy between the kids and his folks to try and rip off Michael for many millions of dollars. And I don‘t know that Tom Mesereau is the type of guy to dance around that and take and make, sort of it take it out at honey, rather than to go after it and to go after it with a hammer and pickax.
PFINGST: I just think that‘s the way this case has to go.
ABRAMS: I agree.
SPENCE: Well, I will tell you something. I will just tell you something.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Gerry.
SPENCE: You want to take after a 15-year-old boy, I don‘t care how much of a conspiracy he‘s been engaged in with his parents. The jury is going to see it.
But if you want to take after a 15-year-old boy with a hammer and pickax, I‘m going to tell you what it‘s going to do. It‘ going to turn that jury against the lawyer. And the lawyer is the one who finally is seen by the jury as the defendant or the prosecutor in the case.
So I‘m telling you that, if you want to have the jury with you, you deal with this child as a human being. And you find out who he‘s talked to, what he‘s said, what they want of him. You ask all the questions that you would in a very pickax-ish sort of cross-examination, but you do it in a kindly way. And I think that, if you don‘t do it, you‘re going to get into trouble yourself.
HENNINGTON: I‘d like to jump in and make a couple comments about this.
Going ahead, Marshall.
HENNINGTON: All right, great.
I believe what Mr. Spence says is correct. I think there‘s a fine balance between the attorneys actually revictimizing the child by doing a thorough and harsh cross-examination of the child, as compared to doing the other side, which is, as Mr. Spence said, showing a very compassionate, understanding, empathetic sort of approach towards dealing with the child, but you‘re doing it very methodical.
And, also, what you‘re doing essentially in front of the jurors is giving the child, if in fact the children or child is lying, or children that testify are lying, you want to give them enough rope to hang themselves, so to speak. And that is that, you certainly want to get the truth out and you want to allow these children to make the missteps along the way.
HENNINGTON: And a competent attorney will be able to take that approach.
ABRAMS: Let‘s be clear. But, Marshall, I feel like we‘re talking about this as if it‘s in a vacuum.
The bottom line is, according to the defense and according to Michael Jackson, these boys are making up a story about him for money. They are lying. They are going to lie under oath. They‘re going to lie to jurors. They lied to the grand jury. I just think that it‘s difficult for you to take a completely friendly, warm approach when that is what the defense‘s position is.
SPENCE: You don‘t take a warm, friendly approach. But...
SPENCE: Dan, you don‘t take a warm, friendly approach.
What you do you is, you act like a human being to these people. You know, the boy is a victim. The boy that‘s going to testify against Michael Jackson is a victim, if a 12- or 13- or 14-year-old boys has been used in a conspiracy with his parents to suck money out of Michael Jackson. What kind of a thing is being done this child? And we ought to know about that. We ought to look at this child as a victim, not as somebody to attack.
ABRAMS: All right, we shall see.
ABRAMS: I apologize, Marshall.
I have got to wrap it up. Paul, Marshall, Gerry, I‘m out of time.
You‘re great. Marshall, we‘re going to have you back.
HENNINGTON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Thanks a lot.
We‘ll be back in a minute.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, his lifetime career earnings are estimated at nearly half a billion dollars. He spent millions for the rights to hundreds of Beatle and Elvis songs. And he reigns over a $50 million getaway in Santa Barbara, but just how much money does Michael Jackson really have? Dan Abrams shows us the money when MSNBC REPORTS returns.
ABRAMS: On day one of the Michael Jackson trial, we asked the question, how much money does Michael Jackson really have? It seems Jackson‘s finances have fizzled in recent years. He‘s believed to have earned about $500 million during his career. In the ‘80s, some say he was pulling down as much as $50 million a year. But now he‘s been known to spend extravagantly, to say the least, $100,000 hotel bill on one trip to New York, a $10,000 bottle of perfume for Elizabeth Taylor, a $2 million watch for from a Beverly Hills jeweler, that on top of just maintaining his life and his zoo at his Neverland Ranch.
All these expenses have added up. And now some say Jackson could owe as much as $250 million.
Joining us now you to discuss his financial health, Stacy Brown, a Jackson family friend and MSNBC analyst, and Brett Pulley, a senior editor following the Jackson trial for “Forbes” magazine.
All right, Brett, let me start with you. Just give us an overall sense of what Michael Jackson has and doesn‘t have at this point.
BRETT PULLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, “FORBES”: Well, we know that he has real estate holdings, which include the Neverland Ranch and also include the homes that some of his family members live in, in Las Vegas, in Encino.
And, of course, Michael Jackson‘s biggest asset for a long time has been the 50 percent of Sony/ATV, which people typically refer to as the Beatles catalog. And what it is, is Michael Jackson in fact did purchase the Beatles publishing and merged those assets with Sony‘s publishing and, as a result, got 50 percent of that publishing business.
Now, the big question out there is how leveraged that asset is. And everyone knows that Michael has borrowed substantially using that asset as collateral to the tune of $200 to $250 million. The big question now is what was the status is with that asset. It‘s unclear. But from my discussions with people at Sony and people who would know, the fact of the matter is, they still consider that a joint venture with Michael Jackson.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. I‘ve heard people at Sony joke—and I don‘t even know—I‘m not entirely certain that they‘re joking when they say that they effectively own that at this point.
Stacy, what do you know about that?
STACY BROWN, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, Dan—and this is unsubstantiated. But I‘ve learned over the past couple of weeks that in fact that Sony and Michael‘s business manager, Charles Koppelman, has reached an agreement where Michael no longer owns any of the Beatles catalog.
In fact, what‘s interesting about that, Dan, is that Charles Koppelman was the chief bidder against Michael Jackson back in the ‘80s for that ATV catalog. I‘m told that Koppelman‘s group actually bid more than Michael Jackson, but had to pull the bid at the very last minute when they lost the backing that they had.
So, over the past couple of weeks, Randy Jackson has attended meetings in New York with Sony on this matter. And a couple months ago, even Frank DiLeo, Michael‘s former manager, has attended meetings on this matter as well with Sony. And I‘m told that, in fact, that catalog doesn‘t belong to Michael Jackson at all and that it‘s been interesting that there has been no denials from either side, either Sony or the Jackson camp, as to whether or not this is actually true.
ABRAMS: Well, let‘s be clear. Stacy, you‘re saying that you view that as unsubstantiated. So let‘s be careful in how we—how definitively or, to be coy, to be sort of cute, how we go to the bank on that one.
All right, let‘s talk about the albums, Brett. Bottom line is down and down and down and down have gone the albums, as I look. Let‘s put up No. 3 here.
And, Brett, lay it out for us.
PULLEY: Well, there‘s no doubt clearly the sales of Michael Jackson‘s albums have gone down in recent years.
But one thing that you do have to keep in mind, even when you ask the question of whether or not Michael Jackson has the money to pay for this trial, and that‘s one simple word, and that‘s superstar. And the fact of the matter is, in spite of the reality that sales have gone down, Michael Jackson nonetheless has a superstar record deal. And he has what is in fact what most people don‘t know is probably the best back-end deal still today in the music industry.
And what that means is, he gets about $2.50 per unit and, at the same time, in addition to that, gets one-half of the profit from those records. Now, of course, however, his records aren‘t selling like “Thriller” sold in the ‘80s. He‘s not selling 30 million units. But you know what? No one in the music industry is selling 30 million units anymore.
The top-selling record out there, Usher, which has been No. 1 in every category over the last several months, has sold maybe 12 million units. So not only has Michael Jackson‘s own appeal and fame faltered, but at the same time, the music industry has dramatically changed.
All right, let me take a quick break here. I‘ll let you both—I‘ll let you in, Stacy.
But when we come back, I want to talk about the costs of running the Neverland, $2,000 a month for candy and soda?
ABRAMS: According to “Vanity Fair” magazine, here‘s what it cost to run the Neverland Ranch: $1.2 million a month for overall operating expenses, $2,000 a month for candy and soda, $3,000 a month in gasoline for ranch vehicles, $9,000 a year to feed Bubbles the chimp.
Stacy, as far as you know, are these numbers in the right ballpark?
BROWN: Well, with the exception of the Bubbles the chimp, who doesn‘t exist there anymore, I‘ve heard those numbers. I know those numbers to be correct from what I‘ve heard, but, again, save for Bubbles.
ABRAMS: Yes. Yes.
Brett, bottom line is, a lot of people are saying that Neverland is just so expensive to run that that is one of the biggest expenses for Jackson.
PULLEY: Yes, no doubt.
The expense side is really where the problems lie for Michael Jackson. The fact of the matter is, Neverland, it is like an albatross. I‘ve said before, he would probably come out better turning this thing over to a charity and taking the tax write-off than actually spending the money he‘s spending keeping that place running.
All right, Stacy, let me just switch gears real quick. The family‘s sense of the jury selection process. You‘ve been speaking to the family on a somewhat regular basis. Are they glad that this trial is getting started or are they just nervous?
BROWN: Well, I think nervous is more like it.
And you‘ve got to understand, earlier, you were talking to your panel about picking a jury that they can trust. Well, historically, the Jackson family has a problem trusting most people. And they‘re certainly not going to trust a jury until they render a not-guilty verdict.
I think, if you poll each one—I know, if you poll each one in that family, they‘d say they‘d rather have that trial not even moved to Los Angeles, but moved to Europe. They‘re more comfortable overseas than they are here in America.
ABRAMS: And are they really evaluating—how much are they evaluating the evidence in this case vs. simply saying, I just can‘t believe Michael would do something like this?
BROWN: Oh, Dan, that‘s an excellent question.
I think what happens with the family is that they look in the mirror and they say, well, I know I could not have done this, so there‘s no way that my brother could have done this. They have not yet considered that he could be guilty. It‘s more of, you know, he‘s being railroaded, he‘s getting an unfair shake, the media is bringing him down, or Tom Sneddon has a vendetta. No one has really considered whether or not anything—any of these charges can be true.
ABRAMS: And, very quickly, Brett, can he afford to pay his lawyers throughout this case?
PULLEY: Well, I think that paying his lawyers is probably not a big problem, again, because he has so many sources of revenue. He has the catalog, which, you know, is—again, is—from my understanding is still held with him. There may be an agreement pending with Koppelman. Of course, Charles Koppelman, look, this is a guy who is a very clever businessman. He was bought into Michael Jackson—brought into Michael Jackson‘s camp so that he could find ways to exploit Michael Jackson‘s catalog and Michael Jackson‘s holdings.
The fact of the matter is, a lot of people don‘t realize, Michael even has Mijac, which is valued at over $10 million. And that‘s a publishing company that he owns outright, and that includes songs by Sly and the Family Stone, by Elvis Presley. In fact, a few of the songs from the movie “Ray,” which is very popular right now, owned by Michael Jackson.
ABRAMS: All right.
PULLEY: So, all that say he has a lot of sources of revenue and cash.
These lawyers are very expensive, but I think he can afford them.
ABRAMS: Yes, they are.
I‘ve got to wrap it up.
Stacy Brown, Brett Pulley, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: For the latest on the Jackson case, be sure to join me weeknights at 6:00 Eastern and then 10:00 again on the Pacific Coast for the program about justice, “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” right here on MSNBC.
Tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, MSNBC REPORTS on the president‘s upcoming State of the Union address.
Thanks for watching. Joe Scarborough is up next.
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