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Last Updated: Friday, 19 December, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Jackson's elite celebrity lawyer
Mark Geragos
Geragos is a consummate media performer
Pop star Michael Jackson is due to appear in court on 16 January, flanked by his high-profile lawyer Mark Geragos.

Before acting for Mr Jackson, Geragos already had a reputation among the rich and famous after representing Hollywood stars such as Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder.

He stood for Downey on drugs charges and was thought to have been instrumental in Ryder escaping jail at her high-profile shoplifting trial a year ago.

The lawyer has also acted for former US President Bill Clinton's brother Roger in a drink-drive case, and had kidnap and arson charges dismissed against hip-hop star Nate Dogg.

The LA-based lawyer is also at the heart of a California murder trial currently gripping the US. He is representing Scott Peterson, who is accused of killing his wife and unborn child, found on a San Francisco beach in April.

Winona Ryder
Geragos defended actress Winona Ryder
US media and law-watchers are impatient to discover whether Mr Geragos' acknowledged courtroom skills may help to save Mr Peterson from the possibility of going to Death Row.

Another aspect of Mr Geragos' work involves speaking on TV news networks as a pundit on legal issues.

He had once said that the evidence against Mr Peterson was devastating - and any defence lawyer would have a tough time saving him from the death penalty.

Within weeks he announced he was taking on the case, and distanced himself from his earlier comments.

With the Jackson case, Mr Geragos has joined an elite band of high-earning US celebrity lawyers, personified by OJ Simpson's defence team Johnnie Cochran and Alan Dershowitz.

Mr Geragos' robust assertion of Mr Jackson's innocence - and his warnings to some commentators to stop spreading the "lies" about his client - made for a powerful soundbite in the midst of relentless pre-trial speculation.

I don't think most people are evil - I think sometimes people are demonised unfairly
Mark Geragos
According to one US report, Mr Geragos has been quietly working on the Jackson defence case for several months.

Law professor Laurie Levenson, from California's Loyola Law School, told ABC news recently: "It has been a natural progression of very high-profile cases for him. He's off on an international level now. I'm not sure you can take it much higher."

A consummate media performer and known for his bravado, Mr Geragos can be brash, funny and irreverent.

He is a demonstrative advocate of his clients outside the courtroom as well as in the dock.

Courthouse

"If I'm going to represent somebody I think at the very least they deserve someone who can find the good in them," he has said.

"I don't think most people are evil. I think sometimes people are demonised unfairly."

As a young boy, Mr Geragos and his brother spent hours at the courthouse where their father worked.

In 1982, after graduating from Loyola Law School, he joined his father's Los Angeles law firm. He still works with his father and brother.

Of Armenian descent, Mr Geragos has remained active in his community, especially in the local Armenian church.




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