Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Thomas A. Mesereau, Jr


Thomas Mesereau is an attorney and to take on death penalty cases pro bono.

More Info

   LAW STAR                                                                                       1. 800.973.1177

                            Thomas A. Mesereau, Jr.
                            [by Regan Morris]
                            Since the Michael Jackson trial ended in June, Thomas Mesereau’s phone has been ringing off the
                            hook. His successful defense of Jackson made Mesereau one of the most famous attorneys in the world.
                            LawCrossing speaks to Mesereau about his practice and his commitment to fighting injustices—for both
                            celebrity clients and impoverished men on death row.

Mesereau’s fame is ironic. He admonishes            names for themselves and obtain fame and           conviction work. I told her that I don’t do
attorneys who seek fame and fortune and             fortune at his expense by trying to exploit        post-conviction work, that I’m a trial lawyer
believes such goals are responsible for much        the fact that he’s a different kind of human       and I’m willing to try cases,” he said. “And
misery in the legal profession.                     being. And I felt he was a victim of what I call   she indicated to me that that was highly
                                                    celebrity injustice. He was targeted because       unusual, that most trial lawyers don’t want
Known for his shock of white hair and               he’s a megastar and they used resources            to go anywhere near a death penalty case pro
his brilliant and often unusual cross-              that they would never have used even if he         bono.”
examination skills, Mesereau said winning           were a serial killer.”
the Jackson trial with 4 not-guilty verdicts                                                          Community service has always been a part of
had increased interest in his career, but had       Mesereau said that millions of dollars were        Mesereau’s life, even before he went to law
not changed him as a man or an attorney.            needlessly spent trying to convict Jackson         school. The son of a World War II hero and
He recently started a new firm, Mesereau            and 70 officers raided Jackson’s home and          West Point graduate, Mesereau said it took
& Yu, with his co-counsel from the Jackson          prosecutors traveled overseas to find people       him years to decide he wanted to work in
and Robert Blake trials, Susan Yu. And he           to testify against Jackson. Mesereau is in         criminal defense and urged young attorneys
continues to take on death penalty cases pro        the initial stages of writing a book on the        to keep trying different areas of the law and
bono.                                               experience.                                        different firms until they find what makes
                                                                                                       them happy. Early in his career, Mesereau
“Unfortunately, most lawyers don’t want             “I’d like the book to focus on my views of the     tried administrative law in a big Washington,
to do pro bono work. They’re caught up in           justice system, my views of criminal defense,      DC, firm and spent a year as a prosecutor,
their lifestyle; they’re caught up in paying        and also use the Michael Jackson case as an        which he disliked. Mesereau is known for
their debts; they’re caught up in wearing           example of how injustice can appear in all         putting prosecutors on the stand during
nice clothes and driving fancy cars, and, you       areas, including how the media treated the         trials.
know, all of sudden, they realize they’re not       case, how the prosecutors treated the case,
terribly fulfilled,” he said. “Civil rights work,   et cetera,” he said.                               “Don’t give up finding a niche that satisfies
pro bono work can be extremely fulfilling.                                                             you. Too many lawyers will go from one firm
I didn’t get to Michael Jackson through             Mesereau needed a vacation after the case.         to another firm to a third firm to a fourth firm
Hollywood, and I didn’t get to Michael              Now he’s working on a book proposal, setting       and basically finally throw up their hands and
Jackson by being known as a celebrity               up the new firm, and preparing for a death         say, “It’s never going to get better,’” he said.
lawyer. I got to Michael Jackson for my work        penalty case in Alabama. He tries one such         “I think that’s a mistake. I think there are
in the black community and my concern for           case a year in Alabama and is passionate           fulfilling opportunities for all lawyers if they
civil rights.”                                      about abolishing the death penalty, which          will really look into who they are and keep
                                                    he considers barbaric and ineffectual.             trying.”
While some believe Michael Jackson                  One of Mesereau’s friends was the former
was found innocent partly because of his            director of the American Bar Association’s         After studying government and international
celebrity, Mesereau says Michael Jackson            Death Penalty Representation Project in            affairs at Harvard, Mesereau worked as a
was a targeted because of his fame.                 Washington, DC, and she got him involved           speechwriter on Capitol Hill. He then earned
                                                    with a group of attorneys in Alabama.              a Master’s degree in International Affairs
“I felt that Michael Jackson was a victim of                                                           at the London School of Economics before
his own celebrity status,” he said. “I felt that    “She was primarily trying to get the services      attending law school at the University of
prosecutors and sheriffs were trying to make        of lawyers to do appellate work and post-          California, Hastings College of the Law.

PAGE                                                                                                                                     continued on back

   LAW STAR                                                                                 1. 800.973.1177

Mesereau said he finally found his niche with   Mesereau said he does not talk about his          In 003, when prosecutors announced
criminal defense work, but can’t remember       financial situation, but does not consider        the warrant for Jackson’s arrest during a
the first criminal case he tried. When asked    himself overly affluent. He consistently talks    televised press conference, many people
the about his success in the courtroom,         about how fulfillment is more important than      were shocked to see the media, prosecutors,
Mesereau said the secret is a good memory       money. He is an active volunteer in South Los     and the sheriff laughing and telling jokes
and old-fashioned work habits.                  Angeles, offering legal advice to the poor.       about Jackson and the child molestation
“I do not use a computer. I don’t like them,”   “I really believe that lawyers often miss
he said. “I’m known for my prodigious           the boat. They’re unhappy in their work;          “Well, we had the last laugh,” Mesereau said.
memory when I try cases. I’ve been known        they’re unfulfilled; but they never try to find   “We got 4 not-guilty verdicts, 0 felonies
to cross-examine people for days based on       a way out of it,” he said. “People with our       and four misdemeanors. So I think we had
what’s in my head and looking at documents      education and our professional opportunities      the last laugh in that one.”
in front of me. And I feel if I were used to    have many, many options available to them.
stuffing everything into a computer, I would    And one of the options they have is to fight
not stuff it into my head.”                     injustice and to make a contribution to


To top