Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Michael, Casey, and Nancy ...

Casey Anthony, Michael Jackson, Nancy Grace … It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke doesn’t it?
I wish I could say it was. But it’s not only NOT a joke but it’s crux of a legal argument. 

Imagine this --The King of Pop -- now being mentioned in the same sentence as -- wait for it, ‘Tot Mom.’

That’s right Casey Anthony is casting a giant shadow in a courtroom thousands of miles away from her Florida legal extravaganza.

Lawyers representing the doctor accused in the Jackson drug overdose case, demanded jurors be sequestered in this case. Why? Because, they say, interest in the upcoming Conrad Murray trial will be bigger than, wait for it - the Casey Anthony trial. Murray’s Lawyers have even gone on to say, “There is a reasonable expectation that Dr. Murray’s trial will be the most publicized trial in history.”

Now, let me say I don’t disagree. Some of you may actually remember I left the Los Angeles County DA’s office because of this case. I knew on June 25, 2009 (the day Jackson died) what lawyers are arguing now. This case would receive gavel-to-gavel coverage. Now before you balk about my self-promotion, think about it, our society is OBSESSED with crime, obsessed with celebrity, obsessed with drama, characters, LA, so it’s the perfect story. Knowing this was going to be the biggest case of my time, I was NOT going to miss the opportunity to opine, as I actually have the skinny, the insight, and know the nuances of my former office. The LA District Attorney’s office -- the players, the case, the evidence, and strategies -- will all be under intense scrutiny. Who better to cut through the hype than a former DA like me?

OJ was called ‘the trial of the century,’ but that was before the world-wide-web. OJ was covered via good old fashion cameras, radio, and reporters. But that was before Nancy Grace, bloggers, tweets and status updates. And Casey proved it – minute- by -minute coverage paid off with sky-high ratings.

And she wasn’t even famous.

When everybody’s jaws finally returned to normal after the Anthony not guilty verdict, the experts began discussing what kind of impact this case would have on the jury system. I was one of them. Was I surprised by the Anthony verdict? Not really. I know what it’s like to stand up in front of a packed courtroom for a big trial. I know what it means to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, and never discount the burden of proof, something I think the Florida prosecutors did.

And this one IS going to be big. I just hope that the DA in LA doesn’t watch too much of its own press, drink too much of their own Kool-Aid, or get too cocky, like the Florida prosecutors did. This case, while seemingly easy on the surface, is actually TOUGH. There are many legal nuances presented by a case involving a drug like Propofol. Then, there is the question of whether Michael was responsible for his own demise or not. And even with the best lawyers, a smart judge, a good jury, the DAs will have to do their job. And they will have to do it even better than they think.

Turns out Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor didn't buy any of the defense team's arguments, saying he didn't want jurors to feel like "inmates." He even said no to keeping cameras out of the courtroom.

And whether you agree or not, one must ask how much does the analysis, the talk, and the hype affect the case. Was Casey Anthony acquitted because her case got too much attention? I mean her jurors were sequestered after all.

Judge Pastor probably summed it up best.  "Yes, there will be talking heads," he said, "frequently talking heads are talking through other body parts than their heads. " I bet Nancy Grace couldn't have come up with that one!

Face it people, circumstances impact all cases. Rampart haunted LAPD for years, Kobe Bryant and the DSK cases affect all rape cases. We are a knowledgeable society, and we will weigh in. But are we weighing in fairly? I mean how crazy is it - the “People versus Dr. Conrad Murray” is being dubbed the, ‘The Jackson Trial.’ Michael’s family will be seated in that courtroom day-in and day-out. His parents, siblings and his children will watch, as Michael is once again center stage. His health, use of drugs, odd behaviors, and yes, the condition of his body after death, will be exposed for all to hear. TV, analysis or not, these circumstances will affect the case just as much as a camera, and yes, even Nancy Grace.

The prosecutor in this case, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren is a darn good lawyer. He’s fair, and hard working, but in this post-Casey Anthony era, does he stand a chance? The evidence as laid out so far, seems to put Murray in a heap of trouble. But we’ve all seen what reasonable doubt can do to a jury. After Casey, I called for professional juries. The idea isn’t a new one, but it may be worth looking at. With 24 hour, 7 days a week coverage of a case like this one, what pressures will Murray and his defense team face? What about the DA and his team? Can justice prevail? I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching, tweeting, and Facebooking just as I’ve planned since 2009.