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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Jackson Acquitted

Aired June 13, 2005 - 18:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: There's no question that this is the trial of this decade. And the trial of the last decade, and the last century, obviously, O.J. Simpson. Defense Attorney Robert Shapiro part of the defense team for O.J. Simpson, joining us now from Los Angeles.
Your thoughts on this -- on the verdict? Your sense going into it as to whether or not Michael Jackson would be found guilty or not guilty?

ROBERT SHAPIRO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: First, Lou, I could not be more impressed with this jury. Clearly they did follow the judge's instructions, and so often, we talk to jurors after a case, and they go off on tangents that nobody thought about. That didn't happen in this case.

I think one of the overwhelming things that you learn in a case like this is, this was brought as a case of child molestation. But it began when the mother came with the young boy to a lawyer, a very, very famous lawyer, Larry Feldman, who had happened to represent Jordy Chandler in the 1993 incident. That started the ball rolling, and I think that, in and of itself, caused a lot of problems for the jury.

The second thing, and equally important, is the prosecution overtried this case. This was a case of child molestation. It wasn't about kidnapping. It wasn't about extortion, and it wasn't about conspiracy. It was about whether or not a little boy was molested.

And then finally, one of the things that's always bothered me in this media age, Lou, is when lawyers, including myself, and the press, are commenting without actually seeing the witness on the witness stand. How in the world can any of us begin to judge the credibility of a witness who says he was molested without seeing, hearing and feeling this person in the courtroom?

DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, your job is to do much of what Robert Shapiro has outlined, and you do it brilliantly. Your thoughts?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, one of the several institutions that's going to have some questions to answer as a result of this verdict is the press. There has been, you know, a lot of negative attention on Michael Jackson, and a lot of repetition of the charges, including leaks that apparently came from law enforcement in this case, and I think Michael Jackson was tried and convicted in the press in at least many quarters before this case even began, and I think this case is a good reminder that, you know, you're never guilty until a jury says you are, and prosecutors shouldn't try their cases in the press. They need to do it in front of juries, and this case was a lot less effective in front of a jury than it was when selected reporters were given salacious tidbits over the past several years.

DOBBS: And this has turned into, as, Jeffrey, as you know, it has -- if the O.J. Simpson trial was a media circus, this is the media circus and caravan extended. The way the media has responded to this case has been remarkable simply because Michael Jackson, in part -- I say simply because -- in part because -- it is a simple axiom that a superstar will certainly have more travail than a mere star like O.J. Simpson. Michael Jackson, as big as he is, attracting something like 2,200 journalists to Santa Maria.

TOOBIN: Yes., and the real distinction between the two of them that seemed to me, and I covered both, is that, you know, the Simpson case was a very much American phenomena. O.J. Simpson was an American football player, an American broadcaster, and the trial was broadcast live in America.

Michael Jackson, at this point, in his career, is probably a bigger star internationally than he is in the United States, and what struck me was the number of reporters from around the world who were in Santa Maria. I remember, you know, the CNN had a sort of official camera location, and I remember to the right, you know, over the course of the time I was there, which was not the full trial, there was -- there were reporters from Germany, from Japan, from Mexico, and that was just one camera location.

The international degree of interest in Jackson is something that we've never seen before in an American trial.

DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.

Well, this trial, as we have said, and you've seen demonstrated over the course of the past year-and-a-half has been nothing less than a media circus. The singer's legal problems have sold millions of magazines, provided hours and hours of material for news and entertainment outlets all around the world in every form of media.

Christine Romans joins us with the story. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, for months, Michael Jackson's trial has provided the world media with endless material. And astonishing number of media at the courthouse. As we said, more than 2,200 reporters from 34 countries have the credentials to cover this trial.

Then there's the crush of satellite trucks, drawing hundreds, some days thousands of fans. This is, after all, a man who made his name dancing in music videos, and since the day Michael Jackson danced on the top of his SUV at his arraignment, the press has run, run unapologetically, with this story.

Cable news networks, including CNN, breaking every morning of this trial into live coverage of Michael Jackson's arrival at court, with as much commentary of his hair, his clothes, his health as his legal problems. And the witnesses -- Jay Leno, Chris Tucker, Macaulay Culkin, the press-packed dream.

And it's not just magazines. Cable news, newspapers, the weblogs, have also been alive with theories and opinions on the singer's guilt or innocence, and just this weekend, an international computer virus carried rumors of a Michael Jackson suicide.

But what about the weight of this is legitimate story? His music videos influenced a generation of teenagers. That's a medium that he really engineered and rode to the crest of his popularity. But this story now combined pop culture, race, age, alleged pedophilia, and a voracious media repackaged it all endlessly. This will not be the last that's written about Michael Jackson, but for today, Lou, the press pack has a new lead. That lead is not guilty.

DOBBS: Not guilty on 10 counts, despite what has been a year- and-a-half of the finest analysis by the finest legal minds, and some of the most interesting analysis coming from people who weren't even near Santa Maria, California.

Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Years of scandal, bizarre behavior, of course, contributing to some of Jackson's problems, and certainly damaging his career. But he is, nonetheless, a global superstar, now acquitted on 10 counts, and a global superstar that still must be reckoned with.

Kitty Pilgrim is here with a look.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we're talking about his international star status. Over the course of his career, Michael Jackson has made about an estimated half-a-billion dollars in revenues.

Let's take a look at the start of his fortune. Came in the 1980s -- release of album "Thriller" -- $65 million deal -- 1991 recording deal with Sony. Now, when "Thriller" was released in 1983, it became the largest-selling album in history, 26 million copies, and then it went on to become the most commercially successful albums of all time. On top of that, it generated successful hit singles. Each of those singles had promotional videos that increased the songs' reach and popularity.

Now, the album "Bad" was released in 1987. That sold 22 million copies sold worldwide. "Heal the World," Jackson sang, 1991. This is enormous international success, and those international sales gave him extraordinary financial power.

Now, what's interesting is, here, take Europe for example. The scandal has not followed him across the Atlantic to such a degree. While his reputation in the United States declined -- he got that sort of Wacko-Jacko moniker -- in Europe he was somewhat protected.

So, here's the split out on "Thriller's" sales -- they were almost evenly split, $24 million international, $23 million in the United States.

Let's look at "Dangerous" and "HIStory," both released in the 1990s. U.S. sales, $9 million, international sales, still strong, $26 million. These figures according to Sony; their rough figures. "Invincible" in 2001. Here's where you can start to see the trend. Climbed to the top of the charts of Australia, Europe, Turkey, the United States, but this weird behavior starting to turn fans off globally. He sold about 3 million international copies, about 2 million in the United States. Still respectable numbers, but you can certainly see the decline because of the bizarre behavior.

Now going forward, there's really no question about his artistic ability. So there is a very good possibility that he could make a startling comeback.

DOBBS: Well, there -- of course, while there's no question about his talent, there's a great deal question about his marketability, particularly in the United States, and a lot of questions about whether all that has happened, a man stripped of his dignity over the course of the past year-and-a-half, problems that go back to 12 years with the previous run-in with Tom Sneddon, the prosecutor in Santa Barbara, all of that will have a play.

Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

Coming up next here, we're going to be looking at precisely that issue. We'll have much more for you on the Jackson verdict. Again, 10 counts, not guilty. And we'll be taking a look at the impact of this trial and acquittal, certainly on Jackson's fortune and his career. Is his career over, or is there a possibility of resurgence for the king of pop? I'll be talking with "Rolling Stone" magazine's Anthony DeCurtis. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: After today's across-the-board acquittal for Michael Jackson, what is next for his career? Can he make a comeback? "Rolling Stone" magazine contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis, CNN Headline News "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" co-anchor Karyn Bryant -- they join us here with their thoughts.

Let me turn to you first, Anthony. The idea that Michael Jackson, after all that he's been through, can he still have a career, anything even reminiscent of the status he's enjoyed?

ANTHONY DECURTIS, "ROLLING STONE": Reminiscent of the status of "Thriller"? No, that's never going to happen again, but it was not going to happen again despite these charges. I mean, I think Michael has to get to a point where, you know, he just kind of focuses, becomes a more recognizable person to his fans, and make a great record.

DOBBS: Put it in some perspective for us. How big is big?

DECURTIS: Well, you know, "thriller" is one of the two best- selling records of all time. DOBBS: What's the other, just out of curiosity?

DECURTIS: The Eagles' "Greatest Hits," as a matter of fact, and they go neck and neck, and one sort of gets ahead of the other now and then.

But you're talking about 22 million copies in the United States alone, close to 40 million around the world. I mean, you don't get that twice. You know, and that, I think, is also kind of crippled Michael's creativity. I think he's become obsessed with trying to recreate that, and that is never going to happen. So, setting aside, I mean, what is obviously a very happy day for him, and setting aside all the charges and other things that have complicated his career, creatively, he has been in a rut, and he needs to do something very dramatic to get out of that.

DOBBS: Karyn, in your judgment, can he?

KARYN BRYANT, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Potentially, if he, like Anthony's saying, works with more modern producers, perhaps, and radically changes his images, perhaps comes out as a grownup artist and stops trying to recreate the glory of "Thriller." I mean, it did sell 26 million albums. You're not going to get to do that again, but if there's some way for him to reinvent, work with new songwriters, don't necessarily try to cash in on exactly what the young people are doing, be your own artist, be more grownup, but still be a little more current and a little bit more relevant.

DOBBS: Is there an implication here that you can see for the music industry itself? Is he -- before this trial, was he through? Because that's almost what I hear both of you saying on a certain level.

BRYANT: Well, certainly...

DOBBS: But now, that, because of a year-and-a-half ordeal that just had to be the most punishing experience one could imagine in a courtroom, that this might offer him new hope, in point of fact?

BRYANT: Well, yes. In fact, as of numbers released in late May, he had sold 257,000 albums this year so far -- doesn't have a new album out, but is still selling records. Sold over a million last year. The last album, "Invincible" came out -- that was the last one with original songs. It didn't do so well. That was in 2001. He was certainly waning in popularity. But the "Greatest Hits" came out in 2003. People bought that. I was one of them. You know, I think he's certainly been on the decline for some time.

DOBBS: Anthony, the king of pop, as you point out -- when I ask the what the second best-selling, he may be the king of pop -- I'm not the king of pop culture in the television news business.

DECURTIS: That's quite all right.

DOBBS: But the money issue here -- this is a man who has lived lavishly throughout his career. We hear story after story that he is in big financial trouble. This has to -- this had to cost his fortune a great deal. How much of that fortune is left, in your judgment? What is his financial condition?

DECURTIS: Well, Michael's main asset at this point is he owns half of the Beatles' catalog, in a deal with Sony, and this decision today, in fact this might be its most dramatic effect. You know, Michael is never going to be "the guy who made `Thriller,'" or has success on that level. But as far as, you know, the immediate crisis of people's willingness to loan him money, or people's willingness to restructure his debts, this, I think, makes all of that possible.

I think Michael's financial crisis, if not exactly over, is going to be much easier for him to deal with as a result of getting a not guilty verdict on every single count.

Karyn Bryant, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," headlines, and Anthony DeCurtis, we thank you.

DECURTIS: Pleasure.

DOBBS: "Rolling Stone," magazine guiding me through pop culture. Thank you both.

Joining us again now is Ted Rowlands outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, California. Ted, is there still a crowd there? Because it seems like it's still bustling.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of media. But the fans have pretty much gotten up and left and they have headed to Neverland, driven the 40 minutes-plus to hang out outside the gates of Neverland. Undoubtedly they are hoping that those gates will open and allow them in for some sort of victory celebration. Whether or not that happens, I think they'll be celebrating throughout the night here.

They were out in force when the verdicts were read here. You could hear a pin drop outside the courthouse when the verdicts were read. They would erupt after each not guilty verdict and then calm down and listen to the next one. When it was all over, the parties started and as I say, that party continues tonight at the Neverland ranch, in and outside.

DOBBS: All right. Ted Rowlands, who has performed inhuman duty, sterling duty, there at Santa Maria for a very long time. We thank you very much, Ted.

Michael Jackson, acquitted, on 10 counts tonight. His trial last 60 days, deliberations took the jury just about 32 hours, more than 140 witnesses to consider. Joining us after the break with their thoughts on this case will be Harlan Levy. He's former Manhattan district attorney, Harlan Levy, and renowned criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman. They join us here next to tell us what went wrong for the prosecution, what the defense did exactly right. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Our Rusty Dornin in the courtroom when the verdict was read. She joins us now from the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, where she has spent so much time covering this trial -- Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it was a very tense moment, as it always is, in the courtroom before a verdict. It's -- the air is heavy. It's just -- it's very difficult to really get the feel of it until you are in there.

Of course, the Jackson family coming in. There were six members of the family that were allowed to be in court. His parents, two of his brothers, Randy and Tito, and there was also LaToya Jackson. Catherine Jackson, his mother, crying, even before the jury -- or excuse me, the verdicts were read.

The jury then comes in. A couple of them seemed a little tiny bit emotional. They, you know, dabbed their eyes a little bit, and then they were somber through the reading of those verdicts. Michael Jackson really keeping his face straight forward, not showing any kind of emotion. Except at one point, he took a Kleenex and dabbed his eyes.

Now, once the verdicts started being read, and it looked as if it was going to be not guilty throughout those 10 counts, his mother began to cry, and his brothers and sisters turned around and were touching her, and comforting her.

Now, they were the only ones really showing any kind of reaction in court. The judge had already admonished the audience not to show any real reaction, where it was jubilation or unhappiness over the verdict. The people were really keeping to that order.

So his family was showing some kind of relief, but it was very difficult to see whether Michael Jackson was showing any kind of emotion throughout the reading of these verdicts. At the end, when it was all done, he stood as the jury left. He turned, he hugged each of his attorneys at that time, and of course, his family at that point were all hugging each other.

Now, throughout this, the jury has been doing a press conference. This is sort of unusual, all of them, including the eight alternates, all 20 jurors were in the courtroom and are still taking questions from reporters.

They are -- have not been exactly forthcoming about the reasons for their decision, other than to say they did not find the family credible. A couple of them said they were angry when the mother at a couple of points snapped her fingers and looked at the jury. Two of the jurors took offense to that. One of the jurors said they had a closet full of evidence in this case. There were 700 pieces of evidence. But they just didn't feel like they had enough to convict Michael Jackson.

I had asked them, is there anything that stands out in your mind, in the testimony, that made you lean one way or the other? Very reluctant to answer that. They said they kept reading the 98 pages of jury instructions, and reasonable doubt just kept jumping out at them -- Lou.

DOBBS: The surprising thing to me was in the first answers, in which these jurors basically said that they were unanimous in their view from a very early stage as to the evidence and the conclusions to draw from that evidence, or lack of it. What was your reaction?

DORNIN: Yes, and they -- well, there's a certain amount of bonding that goes on that I've seen also in the Peterson jury as well, among these people. Even though they're not supposed to be really talking about the case, they're still bonding on some level. And they share a commonality. There's a similar culture in this area. And they all just felt there just wasn't enough evidence.

DOBBS: Rusty Dornin, Santa Maria, thank you very much.

Joining me now with their thoughts on this case, Harlan Levy. He's former Manhattan district attorney, Harlan Levy. And renowned criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.

Let me turn to you first, Mickey. This was a tour de force for the defense, wasn't it?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No question. You know, there's no such thing as a slam dunk, but the interesting part of this was this was a non-African-American jury. No one can look back and say that this was another O.J., racially motivated verdict. No way.

And from the comments that we've heard from these jurors, these people really gave a damn. They worked hard. And they didn't come preconceived notions. They didn't let the creepiness factor disturb them, apparently, and they didn't let us, the media, to disturb them.

DOBBS: Now, you are, by trade, a defense attorney. You are by trade, I would think, it's fair to say, pro-defense on this. But you didn't think the prosecution could prevail? Or did you?

SHERMAN: No. I always felt that he was on a mission from God, from the get-go, when he gave that press conference. Remember that? And he was almost giddy about it, making fun of Michael Jackson's songs, and the fact that he went through 100 search warrants. That -- I mean, nobody has 100 search warrants served against them. It was just something more than the average prosecution.

DOBBS: Harlan, as a prosecutor, this is strike two. It has been an extraordinary expenditure of money for Santa Barbara. It has been an extraordinary painful experience for everyone involved, certainly the Jackson family, Michael Jackson obviously himself. This prosecutor has lost again. Is he on a mission from God when it comes to Michael Jackson?

HARLAN LEVY, FORMER MANHATTAN DA: Oh, yeah. Look, he wasn't only the person who made the decision to prosecute this case. He put himself out there on the front line. Now, I've got to disagree a bit with my friend Mickey Sherman, when he says that there was no way he was going to win this case. He got to put in this case evidence of five other bad acts. And I think we have a tremendous testament to the fairness of the jury system here today, that people will look beyond that -- and that was part of the mission from God, that this was a bad guy. It wasn't just that he did this crime, but that he was a bad guy. And if this jury was able to look beyond that and focus on the evidence, and reached the decision that it did.

DOBBS: Why in the world, given this -- these 10 verdicts, in point of fact, and acquittals, why in the world wasn't this obvious to everyone involved in the prosecution team? That there were serious issues, as the jurors pointed out, about the credibility of those bringing the charges? About that previous evidence, if you will, allegations at least, of wrongdoing? At what point -- isn't there any safeguard for when a prosecutor becomes a zealot?

LEVY: One of the things that, you know, I'm now a criminal defense attorney. (INAUDIBLE), I used to be a prosecutor, everyone in my old office knew that the most sensitive area you could deal with was sex crimes and child molestation. Because you had to make those screening decisions. Because people lie all the time; people fabricate all the time. And the screening mechanism is the honesty and the good faith and the integrity of the prosecutors who handle the matter. And they have to be able to look at that evidence and to make a judgment and say, this is not a case where I'll proceed. It's hard. But they have to be able and willing to do that.

SHERMAN: Same token, they could have easily have come back guilty as well.

DOBBS: Right.

SHERMAN: Without a doubt. I mean, this was not a slam dunk in either direction. So the fact that he brought the case doesn't mean, well, you should have known better. You don't know better. He's too close to it.

DOBBS: These crimes that he was accused of are so heinous, so scurrilous. Does that create more care on the part of a good jury, or does it change the standard subtly?

SHERMAN: Generally it creates less care on the part of the jury. The jury is able to fill in the blanks, or connect the dots, if you will, by their outrage factor, by the moral creepiness factor, when they don't have the proof. But as Harlan points out, they had the courage and the stamina and the integrity not to do that here, even though they had five other victims out there. They still stuck to what they did. As much as we hate to admit it sometimes, juries generally do the right thing.

DOBBS: And the question, obviously, there will not be an issue of, as you point out, a racially-inspired verdict here. But there will be, I'm sure, countless discussions about celebrity justice.

SHERMAN: Yeah, but he is a creepy celebrity. It's not like he's a good guy celebrity. So many people don't like him, and he put himself out there sleeping with young boys. This is not a not guilty by reason of celebrity case.

DOBBS: Do you concur?

LEVY: I think celebrity justice cuts both ways. I think the other message of celebrity justice is that everybody in America deserves the best defense they can get. And the problem is not that Michael Jackson was acquitted, the problem is that there are a lot of people out there who don't get the kind of quality and vigor of representation that they need.

DOBBS: Everyone has complimented this jury. And we've looked back over this process that began in November of 2003, that then was followed by an indictment, by the grand jury, a trial that began at the end of January. Aren't we asking a lot of men and women in this country to stand in a jury in which a trial takes this long, and disengages them from their lives? I mean, this is...

SHERMAN: I guess not, though. They are able to do it. And they did it in a real classy way. And the statement they gave to the judge about the way their methodology -- I mean, really, really speaks well for the system.

DOBBS: Mickey Sherman, Harlan Levy, we thank you both for being here. The headline of the day is: Michael Jackson, acquitted on all 10 counts, not guilty.

And a programming note for you: "LARRY KING LIVE" will have an exclusive, prime-time interview tonight with Michael Jackson's defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau. That's tomorrow night, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. And I'm sure he will have an excellent broadcast as well tonight.

Stay with us here on CNN all night, for our continuing coverage of the Michael Jackson acquittal. We turn now to Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Lou, thanks very much.

END

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