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Toobin: Change in defense a loss for Jackson


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CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin

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Michael Jackson replaces the attorneys defending him against molestation charges. CNN's Miguel Marquez reports.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin discusses the ramifications of Jackson changing attorneys.
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(CNN) -- Attorneys Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman are stepping down from defending Michael Jackson in a child molestation case. The move comes less than a week after a grand jury indicted the pop star and days before his arraignment.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin discussed the latest developments Monday with CNN anchor Bill Hemmer.

TOOBIN: I think it's more like a situation of, "You can't fire me, I quit." In fact, Ben Brafman and Mark Geragos learned of this dismissal when reporters started calling them.

So they were calling them saying, "We hear that you're being replaced." They were not directly told by the Jackson camp before [Thomas] Mesereau was hired, so it was a pretty unpleasant parting, but tension had been building.

HEMMER: What's the rub and why the tension?

TOOBIN: The tension oddly enough has to do with where we are right now, cable TV.

The Jackson camp was very insistent that Geragos and Brafman respond to every new wrinkle in the case that appears on one of the cable TV shows.

Brafman and Geragos said, "Look when you respond, all you do is extend the story. Besides, we have a gag order in place; we can't do it." That kind of tension, particularly over the push and pull in the media, had been building for some time, and it really is what led to the end of their relationship.

HEMMER: So who steps in now?

TOOBIN: Thomas Mesereau, a very highly regarded attorney from Los Angeles. He's probably best known to most people because he was one of Robert Blake's three sets of lawyers during his case.

It's worth remembering Michael Jackson's case is a long way from trial -- Mesereau could come and go as well -- high-profile people have a habit of changing their minds.

HEMMER: In a big case, is there ever a good time to get rid of an attorney?

TOOBIN: Well, it's always disruptive, but this is far from the worst time. You have the arraignment coming up on Friday; there's still a long time to trial.

Remember the judge a couple of months ago said, "I'd really like to get this case tried by December if I could," so December would be the earliest. [There are] many months to go; there's plenty of time for Mesereau to learn what's going on.

But to be honest, I mean, Ben Brafman is -- personal bias here -- the best lawyer I've ever seen.

HEMMER: You've said that before on this program.

TOOBIN: And I think that's a loss for Michael Jackson.

HEMMER: A quick thought here. High-profile cases -- big-time defendant, the client. They try and get involved in every detail of the case. You think about Martha Stewart. Is there any indication yet as to how much Michael Jackson wants to control his own defense?

TOOBIN: Not clear how much Michael Jackson does. The issue is not so much Jackson, as the entourage. I'm informed that it was really Randy and Jermaine Jackson who were the heavy hand in this change of lawyers.

There are a lot of people around Michael Jackson -- the Nation of Islam has been out, they've been in that -- it's a changing cast of characters. Brafman and Geragos were actually hired by a previous group of advisers. That I think is probably what spelled their doom more than anything.


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