Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jackson: Five Stories

THE SINGER

Michael Jackson was found not guilty Monday of child molestation, conspiracy and other counts. Jurors said the accusations of a young boy and his family were not credible — a total legal victory that triggered jubilation among the pop star's fans and embarrassment for the district attorney's office.

Attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said the singer was still recovering from the ordeal. "He's going to take it one day at a time. It's been a terrible, terrible process for him," Mesereau said Tuesday, adding "He's so scarred by the entire incident that it's going to be a long time before he can bring himself to get young boys drunk and share pornography with them. "

Mesereau went on to say that the singer will no longer share his bed with young boys. "He's not going to do that anymore," attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. told NBC's "Today." "He's not going to make himself vulnerable to this anymore." He declined to comment on whether or not Jackson would continue to molest young boys in other rooms of his Neverland ranch.

THE EXPERTS

Legal experts were critical of prosecutor Tomas Sneddon's decision to include the conspiracy charge.

"Had Sneddon not overreached on the conspiracy count, the jury and the rest of the world would not have been introduced to the mother and all her shenanigans," said Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Sneddon appeared defensive about his key witnesses in a post-verdict news conference. "I strongly advised her to leave her shenanigans at home, but she couldn't find anyone to watch them for her." he said.

Other experts said the conspiracy charge also highlighted a troublesome timeline in the case, asking jurors to believe Jackson did not molest the boy for two years, then engaged in a criminal conspiracy over a molestation that hadn't happened yet -- and then, under a media microscope, molested the boy. "The explanation for the verdict is two words: The mother and the timeline," said former Santa Barbara County prosecutor Craig Smith, conveniently ignoring the fact that his explanation contained five words.

THE JURY

After months of testimony and days of deliberation, the jury appeared to relish prospect of returning to their normal lives. "We the jury feel the weight of the world's eyes upon us," they said in a statement read by the judge. "We would like the public to allow us to return to our private lives as anonymously as we came." They followed up their heartfelt plea for privacy and obscurity with a press conference and an appearance on last night's "Larry King Live."

"We would hope ... that he doesn't sleep with children anymore," jury foreman, Paul Rodriguez said on CNN. "He just has to be careful how he conducts himself around children. I'd hate to see him get caught again and be subject to the whims of a less star-struck jury."

During the "Larry King Live" interview, Juror Number 1, a 62-year-old man from Santa Maria, later identified as Raymond Hultman said he believes Jackson "probably has molested boys."

"I can't believe that this man could sleep in the same bedroom for 365 straight days and not do something more than just watch television and eat popcorn," he said. "I know I've never been able to sleep next to a young boy without fondling him." he added, as the other jurors looked askance at him and slowly began to creep away from the man.

The jurors, who listened to the mother testify for more than five days, indicated that they doubted her credibility and were put off by the way she directly addressed jurors and accented her testimony by snapping her fingers.

"I disliked it intensely," said Juror No. 5, a 79-year-old woman from Santa Maria as other jurors laughed and nodded in agreement.. "I thought, 'Don't snap your fingers at me, lady!' "

"She didn't take her eyes off of us. That was uncomfortable," said another.

Legal analysts weren't surprised by the comments, citing finger snapping and eye contact with the jury as two of the top five reasons that pop stars are acquitted of felony charges. The jury's reaction was reminiscent of the comments made by a juror from the O.J. Simpson trial who said "We decided to acquit when Kato Kaelin had the audacity to look us in the eye. We said to ourselves 'Who the hell does that freeloading scumbag think he is making eye contact with us? We're a jury of O.J. Simpson's peers, not Kato Kalien's.' "

Jurors apparently also discounted the cache of sexually explicit material seized from Neverland and presented by prosecutors, who argued the material was used by Jackson to help groom young boys for abuse. "Those are adult magazines. Anybody can own them," Rodriguez said. "It doesn't prove the charge."

"I studied the so called 'girlie magazines' in great detail during the deliberations." he continued. "Every time I went to the men's room, I made sure I took one of them with me. I read Barely Legal, Just Legal, Finally Legal, Purely 18, Plumpers, and Big Women from cover to cover. Not only was I not offended, but I'm their newest subscriber."

THE FANS

More than 1,200 people had waited outside for the verdicts. Jubilant fans of Michael Jackson erupted in chants of "innocent" and tossed confetti into the air outside the courthouse Monday as the pop star was cleared of child molestation and other charges. One woman who had camped out for day with a box of white doves released them, one by one, for each count on which Jackson was acquitted.

Still shaking from his ordeal, one of the doves reached for comment later said, "I can't believe that woman held us captive in over 90 degree heat to show support for that freak. I shudder to think what she would have done to us had he been found guilty."

"It's victory," said Tracee Raynaud, 39. "God is alive and well."

Clearly angered by her assumption that He cared the slightest about the outcome of the trial, God immediately smote Ms. Raynaud with a well placed lightning bolt. Shortly afterwards, God announced plans to market a line of "Jesus Juice" wines named after His Son. "I had the name copyrighted while Jackson was distracted with the case," He boasted.

Meanwhile, back on earth - so to speak - Jackson's deluded fans contined to act like they - not the singer - had been acquitted.

"I'm shaking," said Emily Smith, 24, of London, who was among the few lucky fans in Santa Maria who got courtroom passes to hear the reading of the verdicts. "I believe justice has been done today. I can't tell you how good it feels."

As Jackson left the courtroom, more than a dozen white balloons were released. The musician blew kisses and waved to the exultant crowd before departing for Neverland. There, hundreds of fans hugged and sobbed as they greeted Jackson's convoy of SUVs with a huge cheer. In interview after interview the fans attributed their sobs to the fact that the long ordeal was over and that they would now have to return to the drab, empty, meaningless lives they lead before the trial.

But those were tomorrow's worries, for today was a time for celebration.

Later, fans followed him back to his Neverland ranch, leaving their cars along the side of the road and walking to the gates of the sprawling complex to give him a raucous welcome as her returned home. As a convoy of black SUVs carrying Jackson and his entourage pulled through the gates, his sister La Toya rolled down a window, smiled widely and waved. The crowd responded with a euphoric cheer, before recoiling in shock and horror as her face began to melt in the hot sun.

Martin Stock, the founder of a Jackson fan club in Germany who stayed up past 11 p.m. to watch the outcome had the final word, saying said he was overjoyed, even though he had expected his idol's acquittal. "The whole trial was laughable and Michael was treated inhumanely. I think people were trying to throw him into prison to get at his money," Stock said.

THE INMATES

Santa Barbara county jail inmates disagreed, with Stock's assessment, saying that it wasn't the singer's money that were going to get a piece of had he been convicted.