Al Seib-Pool/Getty Images
by Ken Baker | Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 4:00 AM
Al Seib-Pool/Getty Images
Since I have been granted a media pass to the involuntary manslaughter trial, I've had the opportunity to see and hear what happens off-camera.
Here's a list of 10 things you won't see on TV:
1. The Jackson Family Gets VIP Treatment: From the moment that members of the Jackson family arrive in black sedans at the courthouse, sheriff's deputies provide protection for the clan. No one is allowed inside the ninth-floor courtroom until every member of the family is seated in their area on the second row bench; prior to Wednesday's proceeding, I watched as D.A. Brazil walked into the gallery and shook Katherine's hand. When recess is called, bailiffs allow the family to leave before releasing the rest.
2. The Jury Is Paying Rapt Attention: Most every member of the 12-member jury (and five alternates) takes detailed notes and has been paying close attention to all of the testimony, especially audio and video evidence that is played. They look like regular folks—no fancy clothes or shoes—and are focused on the proceedings.
3. Dr. Murray's Lead Lawyer Appears Disorganized: Murray's diminutive, Texas-based lead attorney, Ed Chernoff, works off a messy scribble of notes on a yellow legal pad and often flips through the pages at random and gives off the impression that he is flying by the seat of his pants.
4. The Prosecution Appears Organized: Armed with slides, audio recordings and concert rehearsal footage, both prosecutors work off neatly organized notes and have conducted their questioning of witnesses very methodically, acting like a well-coached NFL team executing their game plan.
5. Murray Exudes Relaxed Charisma: Think what you want about the man's bedside manner, the 6-foot, 5-inch cardiologist walks in and out of court with ease and a sense of calm, more like a presidential candidate than an indicted doctor.
6. The Courtroom Is Packed (and Tapped): About 50 members of the public, media and family are seated in the four bench rows. Most media (including myself) are allowed to take notes on laptops, which provides a constant ambient sound of tapping keyboard keys. Five bailiffs (one behind bullet-resistant glass) watch observers like hawks so they don't use phones or take pictures.
7. The Courtroom Is A High-Security Zone: Unlike other floors of the building, the ninth floor requires everyone to go through a metal detector and send items through an X-ray machine (in addition to the same level of security at the first-floor entrance). The bailiffs are such sticklers that they won't allow fans who score a lottery pass inside wearing M.J. memorial armbands. I also saw one fan forced to take off a silver glitter glove before he could enter court.
8. The Jackson Family Eats Takeout: The fam has been ordering food in and eating in a private room for the 90-minute lunch breaks. (They ate Chinese on Wednesday.)
9. The Judge Has Appeared Annoyed With Defense: On several occasions, whether while weighing in on objections or in sidebar conversations, no-nonsense Judge Michael Pastor has barked at attack-dog defense attorney Chernoff.
10. The Jackson Family Is Seated Close to Jury Box: Having sat directly behind Janet and Randy myself, I can attest that the family's seating is in direct sight-line with jurors. Could this impact their verdict? "That is probably their hope," says criminal defense attorney Troy Slaten. "Part of their purpose of being there, I'm sure, is to remind the jurors that their loved one has died at the hands of the doctor. And I'd imagine they absolutely hope to influence the jury."
—Additional reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum and Baker Machado
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