Sad saga of Michael Baze dragged through Judge Judy’s courtroom
A little more than a year after the death of jockey Michael Baze from an overdose of drugs, his mother and widow, who between them received $1 million in life insurance proceeds, appeared on the popular syndicated television show “Judge Judy” in a dispute over an $855 bill from a crematorium.
The 24-year-old Baze was a member of the famed racing family from the Pacific Northwest that includes his cousin, Russell Baze, the sport's winningest jockey and a member of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Michael Baze began riding in Southern California in 2003 at the age of 16 and won riding titles at Hollywood Park and later Arlington Park near Chicago.
Baze's body was discovered in his vehicle in the stable area of Churchill Downs on May 10, 2011. He was pronounced dead on the scene. An autopsy revealed the presence of cocaine and the painkiller oxymorphone. The young rider was facing criminal charges of cocaine possession at the time of his death. According to his widow, Kelly Baze, who had been separated from him for about a year, Michael Baze had more than $3,000 in cash in his possession when his body was discovered.
Teri Gibson, Baze's mother, sued Kelly Baze for the amount she paid to have her son cremated (click here for a preview of the show). She also sued to have the jockey's widow pay for travel expenses for her and another son to come to Kentucky, and to defray costs of a memorial service. The cause of Baze's death and his profession were not disclosed during the show. (Note: the disputes on the Judge Judy show are not official, though participants sign a waiver that they will not pursue similar action in the actual judicial system.)
Gibson received $250,000 from a life insurance policy. Kelly Baze received $750,000.
Judith Scheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, is a former family court judge in New York whose tough, no-nonsense style has made her a popular reality TV show star. During the segment in which Baze's mother and widow argued over the disputed money, she constantly chided Gibson to stop talking out of turn.
Judge Judy ruled that Kelly Baze is responsible for the crematorium bill and ordered that Gibson be paid the $855 (according to reports, a fund from the television show actually pays the judgment). However, Judge Judy said Gibson was responsible for travel expenses and any costs related to the memorial service.
Individuals appearing on the Judge Judy show reportedly receive $250 each for their appearance, plus a daily stipend and travel expenses to Los Angeles.
Apparently, a million dollars between the two women wasn't enough.
On year ago, at a memorial service for Michael Baze at Churchill Downs, a tearful Kelly Baze stood arm in arm with Teri Gibson and said Baze “will be looking down at us.”
You have to wonder what he would be thinking now.