Reporting the Michael Jackson Trial – Part Two


Reporting the Michael Jackson Trial – Part Two

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NCRA has been in touch with the official court reporters who are covering the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor. They are Mavis Theodorou and Patricia McNeal, official reporters for the Los Angeles Superior Court. They have agreed to keep us posted on the news that court reporters want to know about the case.

Here is Part Two:

October 19, 2011

The trial is progressing well, and now we’re approaching the end of the People’s case with presentation of the expert witnesses in the areas of cardiology, anesthesiology, sleep expert, coroner, and other experts. Fortunately, the Deputies District Attorneys have been very helpful in providing us the reports of the experts that we’re able to review prior to their appearance. In that way, we’re adding new entries into our dictionaries, which has been most helpful. Patricia and I usually work on gang-related cases where the vocabulary is limited and the coroner deals with gunshot wounds, not as in this case where the burning question is the interaction of the various drugs that were administered.

Today, we have a reprieve of sorts. Today’s expert witnesses had a prescheduled conference in Chicago, and the judge excused the jurors yesterday until Monday morning. The attorneys will return to discuss admission of exhibits and jury instructions. All in all, an easy day compared to the last week.

The environment surrounding the trial is, of course, quite different than most of our cases. The media hovers here from before the break of dawn until after we conclude every day. In Session has wired our courtroom for live coverage and is providing a “feed” to any and all news agencies, as we understand. We have a few members of the filming crew inside the courtroom, partitioned off in a corner with all of their equipment. One gentleman is a “still” photographer and captures photos of participants.

There are three cameras quite expertly installed in black boxes with mirrored fronts that sit approximately ten feet off the floor. Each one is directed at a different area – the judge, witness, attorneys. Once in a while, Patricia and I have our 15 seconds of fame when we’re panned over. The cameras are silent, not obtrusive, and always turned off or in a pause mode unless the court is in session.

In this day of sophisticated technology, we’re in a much different world from when O.J. Simpson was on trial for murder. While our hopes of providing multiple copies to numerous news agencies have not materialized, we have established a wonderful rapport with the representatives of the media and provide them any sidebar transcripts they request.

The courtroom is packed every single day. Our “audience” consists of 33 members of the press, eight people for the decedent’s family, another eight for the defendant’s family, and six to eight members of the public, which change every day. Initially, when you sit back and see all these eyes upon you, it’s somewhat daunting. However, everyone is respectful, quiet, and totally vested in this case, listening attentively to every word.

The only pressure we both feel is trying to write as fast as these physician experts can speak. They’re so anxious to educate everyone on their scientific formulas and procedures that we occasionally have to ask them to please repeat because they have a tendency to speak to everyone as if we all understand what they’re talking about. But they have all been very kind and offered us their business cards should we have any questions.

We’ve made no overnight stays in the courthouse! We fretted over that possibility, but we’ve found that switching morning and afternoon sessions affords us the time we need to edit and print our dailies without having to spend the night downtown. We may take work home with us, but we’ve been fortunate that we’re very compatible in our work ethics and are able to provide the attorneys with their daily transcripts usually before we commence trial the following morning. We stay indoors during the lunch period, and one of the judge’s externs may dash out to find us a sandwich, or we’ll head down to our cafeteria.

Please give an honorable mention in your column to Larry Shalberg from Oklahoma City. He is a retired reporter who’s been glued to the television and forwarding to us brief forms daily. As for Pat and myself, we’re old school and attempt to “write out” everything.

All in all, it’s been a rewarding and educational experience for us.

Originally posted on the National Court Reporters Association’s website.

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