|June 3: Michael Jackson entering the courthouse.|
There's good news and bad news for Michael Jackson. Well, actually, just bad news. It seems he's forgotten about yet another piece of paper he signed in haste long ago. And that document could put a crimp in his plans for a post-acquittal world tour.
Back on May 28, 1998, Jackson for some reason signed a "memo of understanding" with German concert promoter Marcel Avram of Mama Concerts & Rau.
You may recall Avram's name. He successfully sued Jackson three years ago right here in Santa Maria for failing to perform at two millennium concerts. That trial became known as the "Spider Bite" trial. In the end, Avram won $5.5 million plus fees, a total of about $7 million.
Apparently this document didn't come to light during the Spider Bite trial, but Avram put it away for a rainy day. Mark it "Jacko Contract 14-trazillion." It reads: "I hereby authorize Mr. Marcel Avram to coordinate (with MJ representative) all negotiations, including financial, contractual, and verbal agreements for and in regards to the production (Producer), promotion (Promoter). And presentation of the next Michael Jackson World Tour."
That part is typed. Written in, above the words "World Tour" is: "In connection with MJ legal representative."
The document continues: "Mr. Avram will have the rights to approve promoter agreements, vendor contracts, and all matters related to the tour. This memorandum of understanding is irrevocable."
Jackson, if acquitted in his current case, needs desperately to earn money. Touring, especially abroad, would be his only immediate way of raising funds. Despite his public relations profile in the U.S., Jackson remains popular in places like Germany and Japan.
But Avram's document will probably throw a monkey wrench into the works for Jackson, who will no doubt claim he signed the paper under duress or that he was somewhere else on that date.
Michael Jackson trial watchers are wondering what happened to several defense witnesses, including one named Carol Lamere.
See if you can follow this: Lamere became the girlfriend of David Arvizo, the father of Jackson's accuser, after meeting him through a dance academy where the boy and his two siblings wound up getting free lessons.
Not only that: Lamere then became a host to Arvizo's daughter, then 16, who lived with her for long stretches because the girl no long wanted to stay with her mother, the now-infamous Janet Arvizo.
According to papers just released in the Jackson case, defense investigator Scott Ross interviewed Lamere last November. The interview states that Lamere tried to warn Jackson about the Arvizo family, but his secretary, Evvy Tavasci, didn't pass along the message. She told Ross that Janet Arvizo was quite skilled at manipulating her kids to say anything she wanted, and that she was gifted at playing poor to get money out of strangers.
Lamere recounts several nutty episodes with the Arvizos, including making them a Thanksgiving dinner because they claimed to have no food, and that Janet once had a fit and broke all the glasses in her house.
She said it was common for David to be awakened in the middle of the night by Janet, beaten with electrical cords and made to go outside. Lamere told Ross that when it came to Janet, David was weak. She also apparently had the missing piece of the puzzle in one of Arvizo's many stories about raising funds for her son's cancer and pocketing the money.
Ross's report states: "Carol's closing opinion of Janet is that she should be in a mental institution."
Why defense attorney Thomas Mesereau didn't call Lamere is a mystery that I suppose will be answered shortly. But as Mesereau said in the first part of his closing argument, you have to believe the Arvizo family beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict Jackson.
You don't often get to see the advanced level of lawyering we were witness to yesterday in the Michael Jackson trial. The two attorneys who gave closing arguments in the case, for the prosecution and the defense, were well beyond the standards of a county courthouse.
For that reason alone, it was worth getting to court by 6:30 a.m. and going through the public lottery for a ticket. It was also worth seeing Randy and Jermaine Jackson, ex-husbands of the same woman, sitting separated by brother Tito in the family section. No Janet Jackson or LaToya Jackson, however.
Inside the court there were many new faces in the press area, including several "showboaters" or "daytrippers" who'd waited until the end proceedings to pay us all a visit. It's a little like Jack Nicholson waltzing in at the end of "Broadcast News." Very amusing.
Assistant District Attorney Ron Zonen, with his mother sitting in the front row, did the closing for the prosecution. This was a wise move by the District Attorney's office. Tom Sneddon is not nearly as gifted in presentation and oratory. Zonen was not always accurate with his facts in the conspiracy part of the case, but he was masterful in trying to paint Jackson as a child molester and devotee of pornography. He makes the mere idea of opening a homoerotic magazine seem contemptuous, evil and downright scary.
Zonen perhaps spent too much time trying to rehabilitate Janet Arvizo as an upstanding citizen. There is little reason for the jury to find her sympathetic. He gets points for trying.
Zonen had more luck on the alcohol and child molestation counts, recounting all the prior acts allegations against Jackson and quoting, quite graphically, testimony from former Neverland employees who once unsuccessfully sued Jackson. Zonen's hallmark is to repeat terrible things in his sweetly soothing voice. It always gets the jury's attention.
He also leaned hard on attorney Mark Geragos and Jackson associate Frank Tyson, almost as if he were laying the groundwork for a future legal action against each. He called Geragos "incompetent and uninformed," noting that Jackson's famed former counsel received $180,000 in fees from the singer for a little bit of work.
Zonen also said, "Mark Geragos's testimony was not true." Whether that was an allusion to some kind of forthcoming perjury charge is unknown. There seems to be no penalty for perjury in this neck of the woods so far.
Zonen gets an A.
And then came Tom Mesereau. Here is the difference between a great, solid all-star player (Zonen as Rod Carew) and a superstar (think Reggie Jackson, no relation). Of course, Mesereau has better material to work with. He can have fun with the Arvizos, especially Janet. It's much easier to tear down someone's playhouse than to defend it, especially when you know the foundation is bad.
Mesereau came on full force, attacking every one of the counts for which Jackson was indicted. He addressed pedophilia, child pornography, excessive drinking and all of the conspiracy charges.
This columnist was especially pleased to see very clear, spelled-out graphics to help Mesereau make his points. And one of those points -- that Arvizo saw her attorney, Bill Dickerman, twice in four days while applying for passports for her trip to Brazil, which she now calls a kidnapping -- was driven home nicely by Mesereau. It certainly can't be said enough.
Mesereau gets an A+ because he also delineated the unworkable timeline in this case, putting up graphics and then hammering home his point. The timeline doesn't work and, he said, the case makes no sense.
Regardless of Jackson's possible past behavior, this case does not stand up on its own. I wrote in this space on April 28, 2004, the day Jackson was arraigned and the dates of his alleged illegal activities were changed in his indictment:
"In the revised filing, Sneddon has changed the dates considerably. Now he says Jackson did whatever he's alleged to have done between Feb. 20 and March 12, 2003. What? This means there was a two-week mistake in the first filing. Is anyone paying attention to this? And the new final date -- March 12 -- seems impossible too by all accounts."
Mesereau, using a hyped-up but folksy appeal, shook the jury up a little, I think. They paid close attention to his remarks -- he spoke fast and repeated himself on purpose in case someone missed a point.
You could feel the adrenaline rush in the room, and the sense that finally someone was enthusiastically supporting and defending Jackson.
Will it work? Mesereau will finish up this morning, Zonen will have an hour to rebut him and then the jury will be given the case for deliberations.