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From the Field

Analyzing the Michael Jackson Trial
By Craig Smith

Its a rare occasion when you are just sitting at home minding your
own business and a golden opportunity just happens to fall into your
lap. But that is exactly how I came to be a legal analyst for the
Michael Jackson trial. Early one morning I got a call from my former
place of work saying that NBC News had called wanting to talk to me
about the Michael Jackson case. I took the number and returned the
call. It turned out the caller was a news producer from the MSNBC
cable network asking if she could send a film crew over to do an
interview with me. A longtime acquaintance of mine, the former
sheriff of Santa Barbara County, who was now working on the Jackson
trial as an NBC News Analyst, had given her my name as a former
prosecutor that they might want to talk to. I agreed to do the
interview and a little over a week later did a second interview. One
thing then quickly led to another and I was invited up to attend the
trial and was issued an NBC News credential.

I now attend the trial two or three days each week, making the one
hour drive North up to Santa Maria from my home in Santa Barbara.
I've always been a bit of a TV news junkie and the opportunity to
watch journalists and broadcasters from all over the world work as
they put together their daily stories is fascinating. I also get a
kick out of meeting so many of the familiar faces I have seen on TV
over the years. I must say, without exception, all of the
journalists and broadcasters are very friendly and welcoming. Each
day at the trial I usually spend the entire day in the courtroom
watching the proceedings and taking notes. At each recess I walk out
to the media pool area and along with the other legal analysts who
are there, take turns answering questions from the reporters in
attendance and summarizing what has gone on. Those 10 to 12 second
sound bytes you see on your local evening news are lifted from
answers I've given to the half dozen or so questions that have been
asked. Its a new experience for me and I'm still trying to get the
hang of it. Besides doing the media pool duty, I am also asked by
reporters, both broadcast and print, to do individual interviews with
them. I make it a rule never to turn down a request for an interview.

As the Jackson trial draws to a conclusion, my 15 minutes of
"fame" (although, I'm very reluctant to call it that) is nearly up.
As we head into final arguments, jury deliberations, and a verdict,
I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to share with viewers
and readers my perspective as the only legal analyst from Santa
Barbara County, who is covering the trial.

About the Author

Craig Smith is a former Santa Barbara County Prosecutor and Superior
Court Commissioner. He now teaches law at Santa Barbara/Ventura
Colleges of Law and is the Director of the Paralegal Studies
Certificate Program at UCSB Extension. He lives in Santa Barbara with
his wife and has two children. His web page with links to streaming
videos of some of his TV interviews as well as links to print
interviews on the Michael Jackson trial can be found at: