At today’s annual Stephen Philbin Awards Luncheon, which recognizes excellence in legal reporting, the L.A. lawyer who got Michael Jackson off on child-molestation charges said he saw the media as his “enemy” in that case. Thomas Mesereau Jr., who sought a gag order in the Jackson trial and fought to keep cameras out of the courtroom, said he was merely protecting the entertainer from the potential for cheap, abusive, salacious, tabloid reporting. “Everybody was looking to profit off the carcass of Michael Jackson,” Mesereau said. Then he added this advice for the lawyers in the room: “You must win your case with the 12 people [of the jury]. The media counts, but after the verdict, they’re gone.”
Once they’d taken their beating from the high-profile defense attorney, the journalists in the crowd of 200 picked up their awards in the 28th annual Philbin competition, a program of the Dallas Bar Association. Kathy Cruz of the Hood County News nabbed the big prize (and $1,500) for her investigative series on parental visitation issues during separation and divorce in Hood County. The Dallas Morning News picked up a pair of awards for articles on police domestic calls and Dallas County’s bail-bond system, and KTVT/CBS 11 snagged one for a report about a witness who erroneously became a “criminal.” Other winners were the Dallas Observer, Advocate Publishing, the Rockwall County Herald Banner and Texas Lawyer.