Valmai: Tom, are you following the Murray trial in this lead-up phase?
Tom: Well, I’ve been following it in the media, but I’m not involved.
Valmai: Are you able to give a professional opinion at all on the defense tactics?
Tom: I’m hoping he’s convicted; I admit I’m not objective. My opinion is that he acted very improperly; he should never have been administering propofol and certainly not allowing it to be in the home. That’s ridiculous!
I didn’t know until the preliminary hearing that there was evidence that he had allegedly tried to clean up the crime scene. I didn’t know that there was evidence that he allegedly did not tell paramedics and police about the propofol, at least initially. I was very surprised to hear that.
But you know, I’ve followed too many celebrity cases... Elvis Presley, Anna Nicole Smith, and you find these physicians become enablers. They’re afraid to deny the celebrity what they want for fear that they’ll be out of the fold, and I think it’s something law enforcement has to take very seriously.
Valmai: Well how do feel about the defense strategy in saying that Michael killed himself?
Tom: I think it’s ridiculous! I’ve already been on television saying it’s absurd. The Michael Jackson I knew was not suicidal. The Michael Jackson I knew had problems; you know I met him during a very difficult period, his anxiety, his sleeplessness, his depression was very acute, you know, as he was on trial for his life for things he never did. Anyone in that position would probably have needed some sleep medication or some anti-depressants, and I don’t know what he was using because I never saw him use anything. Nevertheless, I met him during a very difficult period, a very stressful period, but the Michael Jackson I knew was not suicidal and would never have wanted to leave his children. So I think it’s absurd!
Valmai: Yes, I think we all agree with that, but I think it’s safe to say that what we can expect from the defense is the portrayal of Michael as suicidal.
Tom: Well yes, defense lawyers have an ethical and professional obligation to vigorously defend their client. From a strictly professional standpoint, the lawyers appear to be acting in a professional way consistent with their obligations. However, I disagree with what they’re doing and I think their client is guilty.
Valmai: Another point we agree upon. Tom, have you had any experience with Judge Pastor? Do have an opinion on him?
Tom: Yes I have. He’s a very, very smart judge, very experienced, very intelligent, very wise and I think he’s going to be a very good trial judge.
Valmai: Well I’m a layman; I’m not that familiar with the judicial system or the law. Many of the fans aren’t. Can you tell me how much leeway does a judge actually have in his decisions regarding subpoenas, who testifies, and how expansive or restricting questioning can be?
Tom: Well judges have considerable leeway to direct the course of the trial. They have tremendous power to do what they think is necessary to keep the trial orderly, to keep it dignified, and depending on who the trial judge is can have a tremendous effect on what happens.
Valmai: The defense requested that Michael’s financial records be made available. Do you think they were aware the judge might deny this motion and this is why they have called Dr. Tohme as a witness?
Tom: I don’t know if they were aware the judge might deny it. I think they are on a fishing expedition; I think they are desperate to try and find some kind of defense theory that might seem plausible. I’m very happy the judge denied the request to pursue a fishing expedition into Michael’s finances. I think Michael’s finances have absolutely nothing to do with what Conrad Murray allegedly did.
Valmai: No they don’t. I agree with that, but I think what they are trying to prove is that Michael’s finances were in such disarray, that he was in so much debt and so stressed out, this is why he allegedly killed himself.
Tom: That’s absurd! It just shows how desperate they are to come up some kind of defense.
Valmai: Do you think Murray will be called to take the stand?
Tom: I don’t know the answer to that. I think that’s just going to depend on how the trial progresses and how well the defense believes they are doing. Trials always have surprises. No matter how prepared you are, you always know that certain witnesses are going to come up with things that no one expected them to say or do. I don’t think they’ll make that decision until the end.
Valmai: Tom, what are your feelings about the lawyer hired by the defense who was peripherally involved in Michael’s 2005 trial? Do you see this as a conflict of interest?
Tom: Well, I don’t know what he had access to, I really don’t. The judge apparently did a thorough investigation into the issue, and concluded there was no actual or potential conflict interest. So I have to assume in his confidential discussions with the attorney, that he concluded the attorney had no information that would create a conflict. But I really don’t know what this lawyer had access to, I really don’t.
Valmai: What do you think about the decision to televise the trial? Do you see it becoming the same media circus as it was in 2005?
Tom: Well, they didn’t televise the 2005 trial. I think there will be tremendous media interest in the case, particularly because it’s televised. It will give the public the opportunity to really look at these witnesses and see how they behave, and to really look at the evidence that the prosecution thinks should result in a conviction. So I think there will be tremendous interest around the world. Michael was the best-known celebrity on the planet, and much loved all over the world, on every continent.
Valmai: I think what a lot of people are concerned about is the way the media portrayed Michael, especially in 2005, and whether they are going to do the same this time round. I know in 2005 the trial wasn’t televised, but the media weren’t exactly impartial in the way they reported on it. If fact, some were quite cruel.
Tom: Well the media are not interested in justice or fairness, they are interested in business, and business to them is revenue and ratings. They love shock value, they love controversy and you have to look at the media with that in mind. To them this is entertainment. It’s not a quest for justice; it’s not a quest for fairness. In their mind it’s strictly entertainment, so they will focus on whatever they think entertains, and that makes themselves profitable.
You have to be very wary of the reports you hear about trials when those reports come through the media. At least in this case people will be able to watch it, as opposed to listening at the end of the day to very shallow, short summaries from the media.
Much of the reporting in the Michael Jackson trial in 2005 was dreadful. They simply weren’t being accurate. They were just trying to report what was sensational and shocking. They would sometimes report what a witness said under direct examination, without even waiting to hear the cross-examination from the defense. So I think they presented a very illegitimate, a very awkward and poor portrayal of what was happening in the courtroom.
Valmai: Will you be making yourself available to news outlets if they request your input on the proceedings?
Tom: It depends on who they are, who the outlet is and if I think it’s going to be a professional type of situation. I’m available for that.
Valmai: Tom, how do you see this trial ending?
Tom: Well, I have no way of knowing; I’m not involved in the case and I haven’t seen the evidence. I’m hoping that it ends with a conviction. I’m hoping that he is held accountable for what I think in my opinion, was a very unprofessional, very selfish and very foolish way in treating his patient.
Valmai: You spent many, many hours with Michael during what was one of the most traumatic periods in his life. What do you remember about his personal strength and composure?
Tom: Michael was one of the nicest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and my law firm partner Susan Yu, feels exactly as I do. He was nice. He was kind. He was well-meaning. He liked to see people do well, and he liked to use his reputation and resources to help disabled people, children from the inner city who grew up in poverty and violence. He liked to see people happy. He could have taken his wealth and prestige and just not dealt with children, not dealt with worthy causes. He could have been purely selfish if he wanted to, but that wasn’t what he chose to do. He truly wanted to make a difference. He wanted to bring people of all races, all religions and all nationalities together. You can see this in his music; you can see this in the way he lived. He had a great empathy for animals because he was such a kind person and he wanted to make a difference.
He was somewhat naive when it came to the forces of evil circling around him and trying to destroy him. He didn’t quite believe that was going to happen and unfortunately, they put him through a nightmare.
Valmai: Did you stay in touch with Michael after the trial?
Tom: Off and on for about 9 months after he moved to Bahrain. Susan Yu and I were helping him out, but he was talking to Susan much more than me. We did help out for about 9 months with the transition and then we moved on to other things.
Valmai: How do you think your life has been affected by Michael? What do you remember most about him?
Tom: Well as I said before, what I remember most is a very, very kind, decent, sensitive person. One of his great gifts was to make a positive difference in the world. He could have been more selfish. He could have simply rented a home on the Riviera and party if he’d wanted. He could have been purely self-centered, but that wasn’t the way he wanted to live. He felt that God had given him wonderful gifts and wonderful success, and hoped to change the world in a positive way. I believe he did.
Valmai: Well, I agree most certainly with that. Tom, the MJTP and all the fans just want to thank you for believing in Michael, and for all the wonderful humanitarian work that you do. We love and respect you very much, and I thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Tom: Well thank you very much. I’m honored and privileged to speak to you about all this and I wish everyone the best. He was a very special person, and I’ve always said repeatedly that he was one of the nicest, kindest people I ever met. I will always say that because it’s true.