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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Aired June 13, 2005 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
QUESTION: Do you have any problem with the judge reading the jury notes privately without releasing to the media last Friday and having that?
SNEDDON: Listen, the judge is the judge. He has the prerogative to do and run his court the way we wants. And I have no criticism with the judge.
QUESTION: So you think that's constitutional and you don't have any problem with that?
SNEDDON: You know, Greta, I just -- you know, it's -- the judge has done what he's done. And that's -- that's the way -- we have to live with what, as you know, what the judge does. I have no criticism of the judge whatsoever, none.
QUESTION: Tom, if there were pivotal moments in the trial when you thought it was going one way or the other, what were they?
SNEDDON: I didn't think there were any.
QUESTION: Mr. Sneddon?
SNEDDON: And I didn't. Just that the case went on.
QUESTION: If someone came to you now with strong allegations of molestation on the part of Michael Jackson, what would you do?
SNEDDON: We'd review it like any other case we review in our office. Just like we reviewed this one.
QUESTION: You wouldn't shy from it now?
SNEDDON: Well, the answer to the question, truthfully, is, I probably wouldn't if it was a good case. But I think we all learned some lessons here, that we thought we had a good case this time. And we thought we did a conscientious job, and the sheriff's department did a remarkable job of investigating it.
But no, the people in this county elected me to do a job, and I've tried to do that conscientiously. And I'll continue to do that the same way.
QUESTION: A child molester has escaped unpunished?
SNEDDON: No comment.
QUESTION: Do you hope that Mr. Jackson leaves Santa Barbara County?
SNEDDON: No comment.
QUESTION: Can I just ask, what was your assessment of the defense team and how they did in this trial?
SNEDDON: I absolutely have no comment about that.
QUESTION: Do you have an estimate on the costs?
QUESTION: You mentioned you'd learned some lessons. What lessons have you learned?
SNEDDON: Well, I was referring probably more than anything else to the celebrity factor. I guess I'm not the Lone Ranger in that text.
QUESTION: Why does it take so long to try this case?
SNEDDON: Actually, I thought the case went pretty fast considering what the original estimates were. We were in trial for February -- February, March, April, May.
QUESTION: So you don't think trials seemed to take a little longer in California than...
SNEDDON: Well, they definitely take a lot longer than they do in the South.
QUESTION: I'll give you that one.
SNEDDON: And I...
QUESTION: Tom, when you walked into the courtroom, did you know -- did you have an inkling what the verdict was?
SNEDDON: We obviously had our aspirations. Certainly had no inkling.
QUESTION: You mentioned the celebrity factor. Do you think that's played a key part?
SNEDDON: Well, it seems to us. But maybe we're just looking for explanations in the wrong places. I don't know.
OK. Any other questions? If you don't, we have some unfinished business. All right. Thank you very much.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thomas Sneddon, the district attorney, the prosecutor in this case who loses all 10 counts, not guilty. Michael Jackson found not guilty, a unanimous decision on the part of the 12 men and women who considered all of the counts for several weeks. Fourteen weeks of testimony, seven days of actual deliberation, some 32 hours, and a clear and decisive unanimous win for Michael Jackson.
That wraps up our particular part of the coverage, but Lou Dobbs is standing by in New York to pick up CNN's coverage -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. Our part begins now.
Good evening, everybody. Tonight, Michael Jackson is a free man. A California jury has just acquitted him on all 10 charges in the child molestation case against him. A one-and-a-half-year long case, the verdict read less than an hour ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We, the jury, in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of conspiracy as charged in count one of the indictment," dated June 13, 2005, foreperson number 80.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
DOBBS: All 10 counts, the verdict the same, not guilty. We'll have tonight extensive coverage of the verdicts, reaction from Michael Jackson fans, the legal community, and from all around the country.
Ted Rowlands will report from the courthouse in Santa Maria, California. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joining us tonight from Washington, D.C. Christine Romans here in New York reporting on the media circus surrounding this year-and-a-half-long case. Kitty Pilgrim reports on how the verdict could impact Michael Jackson's career.
We begin tonight with Ted Rowlands, outside the courthouse in Santa Maria -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, inside the courtroom, Michael Jackson dabbed his eyes with Kleenex when listening to the jurors' decisions count by count of not guilty. Surrounding him, his family members, his mother, his father, sisters and brothers, all there.
Afterwards, Jackson hugged his lead attorney, Thomas Mesereau, and the two other attorneys at the table, Bob Sanger and Susan Yu. And then he exited the courthouse here, waving to fans, but making no public statement.
Thomas Mesereau on the way out did make one statement, saying, "Justice was done. The man's innocent. He always was." Outside the courthouse, fans erupted after hearing that first not guilty count and then sat and listened as the jury -- as the clerk read the nine other not guilty counts. Each time they cheered. And when the time the tenth was finally read, they cheered for an extended period of time, hugging and throwing items up in the air, confetti.
Now at this hour things have died down at the courthouse. Michael Jackson's caravan is still on U.S. Highway 101. Not sure where he is going. It's safe to say he is celebrating tonight -- Lou.
DOBBS: Celebrating. We're told, now, Ted, that he is less than five minutes away from his Neverland Ranch, the epicenter of what turned out to be a year-and-a-half-long ordeal for the king of pop.
Ted, give us some sense of your impressions of Michael Jackson. He has spent more time, in fact, on the road between Neverland Ranch today, and returning to Neverland, than in the courtroom to hear his fate. Your impressions? How did he look? Your sense of the king of pop?
ROWLANDS: Well, in recent months, each time Jackson has come to this courthouse, he has been reserved. Little waves to the fans. Today he appeared, as everybody around him did, very, very nervous walking into the courtroom.
On the way out, we expected maybe a little bit more of a visual celebration. But we didn't see that.
On the way out, he did acknowledge fans. There was no smile. His family, too, quite reserved, given the fact that Michael Jackson came so close to going to prison and now is a free man tonight.
Clearly, it is setting in with this family. His defense team was clearly elated as they walked out. In a stern manner, however. And this has been Michael Jackson over the past few months.
The days of dancing on the SUVs are over. He has been a very reserved plaintiff, and was reserved here again today.
DOBBS: Reserved -- a reserved Jackson family. A reserved, if you will, constrained Michael Jackson today as he left the courtroom a free man, Ted. The people there, the supporters and the curious onlookers as well, their demeanor as the verdict was learned amongst the crowd?
ROWLANDS: Oh, anything but reserved. They had to quiet down after each verdict because they wanted to hear what was coming next. But clearly, jubilation after each of the 10 counts were read. They could hear the counts being read in -- live over an audio feed outside the courthouse. And you can see the jubilation in their face as each of these 10 verdicts were read.
DOBBS: Ted Rowlands from outside the courthouse. Thank you.
CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, has been following the Jackson trial closely since it began. He joins us tonight from Washington, D.C.
Jeffrey, I know that you had some considerable judgment about the strength of a number of the counts overall. Ten not guilty verdicts. Is that what you expected?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I would be great to say in hindsight I knew it all along. You know, I wasn't sure what the verdict was here.
The one count I really was pretty sure of was the count one, the conspiracy count, where the government alleged that Michael Jackson conspired with his employees to imprison the accuser's family after the Martin Bashir documentary ran in February of 2003. And, you know, that case -- that count was not only a very weak count in and of itself, and that much was clear, it also was a terrible albatross for the prosecution, because it brought in all sorts of evidence about the accuser's family. And frankly, they did not stand up well to scrutiny.
The accuser's mother was an eccentric, at best, witness. The accuser himself was not a great witness. His brother, his sister, all of them had substantial credibility problems. And I think that was ultimately the reason the government couldn't prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.
DOBBS: Beyond a reasonable doubt despite direct testimony to lewd acts, molestation on the part of employees of Neverland, former employees of Neverland Ranch, as well as the accuser. But at the same time, strong denials from witnesses that were expected to support, to bolster the -- the prosecution. And I'm thinking here particularly of Jackson's former wife, Debbie Rowe.
How important, in your judgment, was her testimony?
TOOBIN: I think it was important. I think what was especially important for the defense is that all of the testimony fit within their theme, which was that this family were grifters, that they saw Michael Jackson as an opportunity to make Michael.
Their claims against Jackson were part of a pattern in their life. And, you know, one extremely important part of this case was that this family had sued J.C. Penney for an incident that allegedly took place in a parking lot at J.C. Penney. And it was very clear to me, and I suspect to the jury, that both the accuser and his mother gave false testimony in that case in order to make money, including allegations of a sexual kind of abuse of the mother.
And Thomas Mesereau very effectively made the point that, see, this is what they do, this is a pattern. They make sexual allegations to make money.
DOBBS: Jeffrey, let me -- excuse me, Jeffrey. Let me interrupt.
Obviously, the Jackson motorcade is pulling up along a gauntlet, if you will, of Jackson supporters who've gathered outside his Neverland Ranch. He is arriving at the entrance to that sprawling 3,000-acre facility, which includes, of course, the amusement park and the homes. It is an extraordinarily large property, estate, if you will.
And in just about a two-hour span, Jackson has learned his fate. He has returned to Neverland a free man, and that in itself surprising many observers and many analysts who had listened to all of this testimony.
And Brooke Anderson is at -- there at Neverland.
And Jeffrey, bear with me. We're going to go to Brooke Anderson -- to Brooke Anderson to get the latest -- Brooke.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Lou.
Yes, as each minute passed since the verdict was announced, more and more people gathered here outside of the gates. You can see them outside of the gates. Many of them fans. Many of them just people curious to see Michael Jackson.
His motorcade did arrive a few moments ago. Windows were rolled down. I couldn't tell if Michael was waving to the fans, but I did see some -- some hands come out of the windows and wave -- wave to the fans.
Earlier, a few minutes before that, it looked like the entire -- or part of the staff, Michael Jackson's Neverland staff, walked up to the gates and shook their hands in jubilation and cheered with the fans. Some Neverland employees have been leaving the gates in their cars, many of them smiling, pumping their fists in triumph.
We do have some law enforcement on hand here now, several highway patrol cars are here. So there is a presence of law enforcement, some officers here.
The helicopters are hovering overhead. There are three helicopters monitoring Jackson and his arrival at Neverland Ranch.
I do want to say that the fans outside are celebrating right now. And it's interesting to point out, about a week and a half ago, Jackson's main security guy walked out, held an impromptu speech with the fans, and said that at the appropriate time they would have a celebration.
We don't know what Jackson and his folks have planned. We don't know when that will happen, if it's formal or informal, who's invited. But right now, a theme of jubilation and triumph here among the fans and Jackson and his family -- Lou.
DOBBS: Brooke, I have to believe that the planning is now a great deal more rigorous than it was before they knew of this verdict. Brooke Anderson outside the Neverland Ranch.
And Michael Jackson has returned home with his fate now clear and his freedom assured. Jeffrey Toobin, let's return to your point on the pattern that you perceived in both the prosecution's attack against Jackson and the defense's rallying points.
TOOBIN: Well, the -- what made the defense so effective here is that it wasn't just this one incident that they could point to. They could say that this is a mother who, you know, had tried to cheat on welfare, who had tried to make money improperly out of her son's disease, who had filed this very questionable lawsuit against J.C. Penney.
So they could tell a story, and juries, you know, always understand stories rather than sort of individual facts. And their story hung together.
However, the prosecution had a story here, too, and they were allowed to tell it. They brought five other stories before the jury of other molestation by...
DOBBS: And they were able to do that, Jeffrey, because of a change in California law, correct?
TOOBIN: California law -- California evidence Code Section 1108, that interestingly was changed fairly recently because of the molestation cases against Catholic priests. That earlier law had not earlier allowed prior conduct of these accused priests to be brought before the jury, and the California legislature thought it was a good thing to be allowed to have this evidence brought before them.
The law was changed. The prosecution here made very extensive use of that law. Probably more than has ever been done before.
Frankly, I thought it was pretty effective evidence. The jury didn't buy it.
DOBBS: And let me ask you this, Jeffrey. The judge actually telling the jurors today not to be guarded in their responses to the press. More than 2,000 reporters there to cover the trial, to actually -- he encouraged them to speak to the press.
TOOBIN: Very uncharacteristic of Judge Melville. He has conducted the closest thing to a secret trial that I have seen.
He didn't release the indictment until the jury was picked. There was no release of the questions from the jury during jury deliberations, something that I've never seen before. So I guess he now feels that since the trial is utterly and completely over, it doesn't matter anymore. But it's certainly uncharacteristic with how he tried the rest of the case.
DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, as always, thank you. We're going to ask you, if you would, to stay with us. We're going to ask you to join a number of other prominent attorneys, defense attorneys and prosecutors, as we further analyze today's acquittal of Michael Jackson.
We're going now to the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, where jurors have moved before the cameras and microphones. And let's hear what they have to say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number six.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seat number 10.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seat number three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seat number 11.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The acoustics in this room, I need to ask you to speak up. You're actually great on microphone, but the folk in the back can't hear.
OK. In the second row, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 148.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what juror seat number were you in the box?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was an alternate one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Alternate one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm five.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alternate number two.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alternate number seven.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alternate number five.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alternate number eight
DOBBS: As you're listening to the jurors identify themselves for the press and media there at the press conference for the jurors, you can obviously see that, interesting in the composition of this jury, not a single African-American sat on this jury. And only four were minority, Hispanic and Asian. Eight women and four men.
Let's listen in.
QUESTION: What did you think about the accuser's testimony, as well as about the obvious absence of the boy from the '93 investigation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And who are you asking that question of?
QUESTION: Number two.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would rather not comment on that right now. Maybe somebody else would like to answer that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone at all? Anyone comfortable with that?
Let's move on. And we will come back as we move through.
Let me turn then to The Associated Press.
LINDA DEUTSCH, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Hi. I'm Linda Deutsch of Associated Press. And it's nice to be able to talk to you all after looking at you for so many months.
I'm wondering if there were any disagreements in the jury room when you first went in, or did you quickly find that all of you were pretty much in agreement?
Any one of you can answer. Perhaps number five. We've been looking at each other across the room.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been smiling at each other, too.
DEUTSCH: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we all just looked at the evidence and pretty much agreed.
Wouldn't you say so, number three?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We came in with our personal beliefs. But we did look at the evidence.
DEUTSCH: I can't hear you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We -- some of -- we all came in with our personal beliefs, and some of those did differ. But we spent a lot of time really seriously studying the evidence and looking at the testimony, and the jury instructions, and obviously came to an agreement.
DEUTSCH: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Did you pay attention at all, or see all the sort of media circus out here? And if so...
DOBBS: That answer the first surprise of what may be a number. Most of the analysts and observers had expected, because 32 hours, almost 32 hours of deliberation were required to reach today's verdicts, that there was considerable differences of view on the evidence and judgment about Michael Jackson's innocence or guilt. And that was quickly dispelled with the first answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... trying to stay as private and quiet as possible.
QUESTION: Anyone else want to add on the media, or have a thought on the media? You all jumped at it, it seemed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt that the first time that I really felt the presence and stuff, I think, was our first -- second day out of jury deliberations when we all walked out to the van together, and seeing all those people on the right of us and on the left of us. It kind of hit you like, "Oh, my god, where did they all come from" and that.
But, you know, we could hear the media going back and forth and everything when we were outside and stuff. But otherwise, it didn't really bother us that much at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone else?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think by the time we got to deliberation, we had all been so conditioned to the media, that it didn't make any difference anymore. That was my personal feeling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Thank you. What number, sir? Just one more time, your number?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one. Thank you.
Turning across the aisle?
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rusty Dornin, CNN.
Juror number one, I know you said in your statement that you meticulously all went through the evidence and that sort of thing. But what stands out in your mind as the most important thing that swayed you, that made you feel it was -- that you had to vote not guilty in this case?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't really point to any one specific item right now. It's -- I mean, there were tons of evidence to consider, and to pick one item out is really difficult.
And I would just say that we considered all of the evidence. And, of course, since it's a criminal trial, it had to be beyond a reasonable doubt. And in looking at all of the evidence, and not just one specific item, I mean, that's the conclusion we arrived at. And I think we really worked hard and were very careful in making that decision.
DORNIN: Any testimony, though, that just stood out in your mind, that kind of in your own head, you thought, this isn't right, I just can't...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I sit here right now, I can't point to anything specific.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
Across the aisle.
QUESTION: Hi. Quentin Kushner (ph), from "The Santa Maria Times."
Just curious, what was your opinion of the attorneys' performances, both from the prosecution and the defense, as they tried this case? For anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they were all wonderful litigaters. Very well prepared on both sides.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to -- I think it was -- it was a sight to see, because I've never seen anything like this. And you've seen it on TV all the time, and now you actually see it up close and personal. And it's like, wow, you know. For my first time doing jury duty, this is -- it's pretty interesting, to say the least.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we got to see their faces like you guys didn't. So when stuff was going on, we could see, you know, their size, or their, "yes" and stuff like that. And we could see what they were thinking in their selves there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone else have a feeling? OK. Let's move on to across the aisle.
QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Salvador Duran (ph). I'm with "Telemundo," Channel 52, Los Angeles.
I would like to find out if the fact that Michael Jackson is an international superstar, what role did that play in your decision- making? And I would also like to ask, Mr. Foreman, if any of you speak Spanish, to also after you answer my question to briefly make a statement in Spanish to -- for the Spanish -- the large Spanish audience across the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, personally, I think we looked at all the evidence. We looked at Michael Jackson. And the first -- one of the first things that we decided, that we had to look at him as just like any other individual, not just as a celebrity. And once we got that established, that we could go beyond that, we were able to deal with it just as fairly as we could with anybody else.
QUESTION: Do you speak Spanish, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd rather have her answer in Spanish.
QUESTION: Could you tell us just what your thoughts on the fact that Michael Jackson is a mega-star, known around the world, in espanol, por favor. (SPEAKING SPANISH)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
QUESTION: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. And across the way to you?
QUESTION: And I wanted to direct this question mainly to the parents on the jury, somebody with children. And some of the more troubling evidence to many observers was about Mr. Jackson sleeping in bed with children. And I was wondering if you found that troubling or believable, and if you would approve of your own children would do such a thing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you asking that of...
QUESTION: Any parents on the jury.
I see you nodding, ma'am. I would like to ask you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, as a parent, you know, it's something that you are constantly -- every moment of your day, you're protective over what happens to your children. And I guess I might be speaking maybe for myself and a few others, jurors, that, you know, what mother in her right mind would allow that to happen, or, you know, just freely volunteer your child, you know, to sleep with someone? And not just so much Michael Jackson, but any person, for that matter.
So that's something, you know, that mothers, I think, are naturally concerned with.
QUESTION: So did you feel that the mother in the case was at fault, rather than Mr. Jackson?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to comment on that, but I believe at this time I probably shouldn't.
DOBBS: We're going to turn to Kendall Coffey now, one of the foremost legal experts in the country, one of the leaders of the bar.
Kendall, you're listening to this jury reacting. You've seen the verdicts. Give us your assessment of what happened here and why.
KENDALL COFFEY, LEGAL EXPERT: Well, they led off with the observation about reasonable doubt. You always wonder in a trial if a jury is really going to pay strict attention to that, because this case clearly had a lot of question marks, as well as a lot of evidence that was very, very troubling.
They honored the judge's instructions. At the end of the day, this was a reasonable doubt case.
The other very clear thing, at least is starting to develop, as we heard from one of the comments, is the mother. The defense strategy was, hey, let's not put Michael Jackson on trial, let's puts the accused mother on trial. And you heard the comment moments ago, Lou, what mother would entrust her child to Michael Jackson or anyone else?
So the defense had a very clear theme. They basically took the position that this was a scheming, scamming mom who taught her kids to lie in order to hit the jackpot for millions of dollars. And at the very least, the power of that thesis created a reasonable doubt.
DOBBS: You also heard the jurors. There was four that we just listened to just now there in Santa Maria. They were talking about not being overwhelmed by the media, overwhelmed by the superstar status of Michael Jackson. At the same time, there was a sense of, it seemed to me, at least, of some considerable awe at the entire spectacle.
What was your sense?
COFFEY: Well, these were everyday people, of course, in anything but an everyday situation. But I got the sense that they really did try to look at Michael Jackson, not as this really strange guy, or as an international celebrity. They really tried to look at him as a defendant and what was the quality of the evidence against him.
For many of us, we thought that some of the past accusations, particularly two of the witnesses that weren't really impeached, might be enough to cook his goose. After all, if it looked like he might be a child molester, is it that important whether or not he committed the transgressions in this case?
Clearly, when the jury went back to reading back the alleged victim himself, they were focusing right where they needed to be. Not whatever he's done, not what kind of person he is, not what they think of his lifestyle, but did he actually commit the alleged crimes that are before him in this particular trial.
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