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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Michael Jackson Acquited
Aired June 13, 2005 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with a stunning, absolute victory for Michael Jackson and a crushing, humiliating defeat for the prosecutor who spent a decade trying to convict him of child molestation. Little less than two hours ago, Michael Jackson left the courtroom. There he is. He look stunned, having heard to two greatest words of his life -- not guilty -- and he heard those words again and again and again and again on all 10 counts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Count two verdict. We, the jury, in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a minor child as charged in count two of the indictment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And that was just one, not guilty on lewd conduct, not guilty on conspiracy to commit child abduction, not guilty on attempted lewd conduct and administering alcohol. In the end, the jury -- you see them here giving a press conference a few moments ago -- they believe it wasn't the young accuser who was victimized. They believe it was Michael Jackson. Vindicated and free, he is. Jackson's life has forever changed. His appearance, drastically changed since the molestation trial began in the winter. He is now frail physically and financially weakened but he is free.
We have extensive team coverage of today's verdict. We begin with CNN's Rusty Dornin who was inside the courtroom when the verdict was read. Rusty, a remarkable afternoon.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's just hard to describe when you go into the courtroom like that for a verdict after all of these months of testimony, and just knowing how much tension is in that courtroom. You find your own heart beating right before they announce those verdicts. I was sitting right behind Katherine and Joe Jackson and also brother Tito and Randy and Latoya Jackson. Katherine Jackson began to cry before the verdicts were even read. She was comforted by Tito Jackson who kept touching her. The family really seemed to want to stay in touch with each other, even before they heard what the decision was going to be.
The jurors come into the courtroom. You could hear a pin drop. None of them looked at Michael Jackson when they came in. A couple of them did seem somewhat emotional. They were seen taking some Kleenex and dabbing their eyes. Michael Jackson comes in as he has come in almost every day of this trial, looking straight ahead, no expression on his face, very somber. Hearing him, those verdicts read and again and again, not guilty, not guilty, well, by the second one his mother really began to cry, but you could not really see his emotion on his face although he did dab his eyes at one point with a Kleenex.
Of course, by the end of it, by the end that all of the verdicts have been read, the family, obviously, very relieved, but very little sound in the courtroom. The judge had admonished us. He didn't want to hear jubilation and any unhappiness about anything that was read in that courtroom and people really observed that. The family, of course, standing up, hugging. Michael Jackson then turned to each of his attorneys and hugged each of his attorneys.
It was at that point they did take the media out of the courtroom and the jury went back and of course is doing this press conference which has been fascinating where they're talking about the...
COOPER: What surprised you most? I mean, the jurors continue to speak. They've been speaking for quite a while. Clearly, they were not impressed, to say the least, with the mother of the accuser.
DORNIN: No, and that's what many of us here have been saying all along. The credibility of the mother was huge. At least two of the jurors took offense because apparently during her testimony she snapped her fingers -- at one point, snapped her fingers and said people in our culture don't do that, looked directly at one of the Hispanic jurors who turned out to be the foreman, and he thought to himself, you know, in my culture, she's snapping her fingers at me. He said, that really turned me off.
Some of the other ones saying they had a closet full of evidence, but it just really wasn't enough, and another thing that was interesting was, you know, many people saying, well, Michael Jackson, he's strange, he's kooky, he's weird. Well, a couple of the jurors said they didn't feel that way. They felt he was someone that they could walk up to in the street and say hello to.
So, just some very interesting insights in to what they saw in the trial.
COOPER: Rusty, we're seeing pictures right now of Michael Jackson when he was leaving the courtroom. He looks stunned, just kind of holding his hand up, not really reacting to the crowd. He then seemed to liven up a bit before he stepped into the SUV, gesticulating a little bit more, but in the courtroom itself, you said he cried a little bit? Is that what you said?
DORNIN: Well, it's difficult to say cried, Anderson, because I was directly behind him and he did not move. He stared straight ahead while the clerk was reading, but there was also a camera in the courtroom for our overflow listening room and a couple of folks in there say they did see him peck up a Kleenex at one point, about the third or fourth count, and dabbed his eyes. That was it. There was not huge smiles. There was not this great, you know, sigh of relief. You couldn't see anything like that. So, really, not the jubilation that you would expect for a verdict like this.
COOPER: It is a fascinating afternoon. We're going to be covering it all this hour. Rusty, we'll talk to you a little bit later on. Rusty, thanks.
Neverland, now, Michael Jackson's private live-in amusement park, devoted to happiness -- well, it's been a pretty unhappy place as you can imagine in the past few months. The mood, well it must have brightened today. You might think of it now as happily-ever- afterland. Brooke Anderson is standing by the Jackson ranch where Jackson is now.
Brooke, what's the scene there?
BROOKE ANDERSON, CORRESPONDENT: Oh, jubilation is the scene, Anderson. Michael Jackson arrived home a short time ago from the courthouse after hearing his fate and after hearing he was acquitted of all 10 charges and he was greeted by a hoard of fans. There are hundreds of fans, about 200 fans here now. They keep arriving in droves. I spoke to one lady. She said this was the happiest day of her life.
Defense attorney Tom Mesereau arrived here a short time ago, about 15 minutes ago, to go see Michael Jackson and the family. The crowd surrounded his car, chanted Mesereau, Mesereau, Mesereau and chanted thank you, thank you, thank you! A big scene here, a triumphant scene.
Also there's some presence of law enforcement here. We've got highway patrol cars and officers here. Michael Jackson's Neverland firetruck also made its way to the front gate a little bit earlier. We've had some Neverland employees also showing their excitement. I saw chefs, I saw housekeepers, walk to the front of the gate, pump their fists in triumph. So it is a scene of jubilation and here at Neverland, the party just keeps on growing.
Anderson, an interesting point to make. About a week and a half ago I was here when the head of security exited the gate, made an impromptu speech to the fans and said when it is an appropriate time, we will celebrate. So, there is a celebration going to behind me. I don't know if they have anything formal planned in the future or when that would be, who would be invited, but like I said, everyone elated here at Neverland.
COOPER: And we'll be of course waiting to see if there's any kind of statement from any of the Jackson family or Jackson camp at Neverland. We'll check in with you a little bit later on.
A lot of people weighed in about the trial. The only opinion, of course, that really counted in the end was jury's. Today they spoke first with their verdict and then in front of the cameras. CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Santa Maria with more on the jury's reaction.
Ted, what surprised you most?
TED ROWLANDS, CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they're still talking. That surprised us and the amounts of information that they have given us.
They didn't like the mother in this case and they kept referring to the instructions they were given saying that reasonable doubt was not achieved. They said they worked hard. They were surprised that they were able to come to a verdict today, saying that the weekend really helped them clear their mind and come to a consensus. They also said that if they met Michael Jackson on the street they'd say he's just a regular guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 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 or any person, for that matter? So, that's something, you know, that mothers, I think are naturally concerned with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very emotional, and I wasn't the only one crying OK? Even though it might be because I'm sitting up front. I had to pass it around, but after deliberating for as long as we did and the emotions everybody goes through and, you know, just everything, it just -- just realize that it's done and it's over, and that we all can now go on with our lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: And the jurors said, when they go on with their lives it will be with each other to some extent. They plan to keep in contact, one saying, I gained 19 friends going through this process, clearly -- and you can see them in the courtroom day after day, they got along, and I think that helped them. They said that helped them during the deliberative process. Anderson?
COOPER: Ted, I heard one of the jurors commenting any some of the literature, or perhaps literature is too fancy or high-falutin' a term for some of the, you know, porn magazines, whatever they were or the artistic books of photographs of naked children.
He -- the guy I saw commenting -- I think it was the jury foreman said, you know, they may be disturbing and not my cup of tea, but they're not illegal. So those images didn't seem to play a big role with the jury.
ROWLANDS: And, they said that they kept referring to the jury instructions. It came down to reasonable doubt, which is what the instruction is. They said they look through the porn. They looked at the fingerprints, and then -- you're right -- in the end, they said, it's all -- it's legal to possess, and it is what it is. We followed our instructions. This was our verdict."
COOPER: We're going to play more of what the jury had to say, a little bit later on, tonight on 360.
Ted, we'll check in with you, shortly.
Now, of course, begins the guesswork. What went right for Jackson, and where did the prosecution go so wrong? The prosecution gave a press conference.
Helping us cover all the angles tonight, two people who have followed this trial from the get-go, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, joins us from Washington. And from Santa Maria, defense attorney Anne Bremner.
Anne, let's start with you, because you are there. Your thoughts --surprised?
ANNE BREMNER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, I'm not. You know, either verdict, a guilty or not guilty on all counts, would have been rationally based on the evidence, and that the prosecution faltered and failed in their case in many ways. And I thought, for a long time, there could be an acquittal or a hung jury.
That having been said, they gained momentum at the end, and I thought there was a specter of conviction on some of the counts. But that was, you know, some momentum, but not, clearly, that there would be a conviction. So, I'm not surprised.
There's a lot of jubilation out here today. There's not a lot of shock out here, frankly, Anderson. It's not like the O.J. Simpson verdict, where people's jaws dropped. This is simply one that, I think, was rationally based.
COOPER: Jeffrey, jurors said, you know, they weighed all of the evidence, and they couldn't name one particular thing that really swayed them. Is there one particular thing the prosecution could have, should have done differently.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One, one, big, big thing, and that is count one: the conspiracy count.
I have never seen a trial where a single count dragged down a prosecution more than this one. Just to refresh people's memory, count one: Jackson was charged with conspiring with his employees to hold the accuser's family, essentially, prisoner; kidnapping them after the Martin Bashir documentary ran in 2003.
And first of all, the case was -- the count was just incredibly weak. I mean, there was really almost no evidence that Jackson participated in any conspiracy.
But far worse than that, is that the evidence that the government put on to try to prove that count -- to, you know, putting on the mother, saying she was a victim of kidnapping and company was so implausible, and so bad, that it dragged down the entire prosecution. And it allowed the defense to put the accuser's family on trial. So, the decision to charge count one was the fatal flaw in this prosecution. COOPER: Well, let's play a little bit of what Tom Sneddon had to say. After all of the not guilty verdicts were in, he gave a press conference. Thankfully, this time he didn't tell too many jokes, as he has in past press conferences. Let's play some of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM SNEDDON, PROSECUTOR: My past history of Mr. Jackson had absolutely, unequivocally nothing to do with our evaluation of this particular case. That's been a nice little 30-second sound bite that the media has used to try to justify this thing. But it never had anything to do with either the sheriff's investigation, or our decision to file.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And did Sneddon just blow this case?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I don't think you can fault him with bringing the case of child molestation against Jackson. After all, he did have Michael Jackson admitting that he slept in the same bed with this boy. And then, he had this boy saying, "Michael Jackson molested me when we were sleeping in the same bed." So, it's not a crazy, fanciful prosecution.
However, you know, prosecutors need not to overcharge their cases, and by trying to create this conspiracy charge which, based on -- you know, sometimes when you see a trial you think, "Well, maybe he's guilty, but they didn't prove it." With that conspiracy charge, I am convinced that Michael Jackson is absolutely innocent of that. And it's a rare prosecution that I sit through where I think, "There's just not even a chance that the defendant's even guilty."
COOPER: There's a lot to talk about.
Anne, we want to talk to you a little bit later on.
Jeffrey, as well, we're going to bring you back, in just a few minutes. I've just got to move on to some other things. We'll talk to you again, shortly.
Be sure to watch "LARRY KING LIVE." Tomorrow night, a primetime exclusive interview: Michael Jackson's defense attorney Tom Mesereau.
We have not seen him speak in reaction to this trial. He's going to do that on "LARRY KING," tomorrow at 9:00 Eastern time, tonight.
Next on 360, we're going to talk with Michael Jackson's publicist. Plus, we're going to hear more from members of the jury that found Michael Jackson not guilty of 10 charges against him. They had some fascinating things to say to explain their decision-making process.
Also, a celebration in Neverland -- another live report from Michael Jackson's amusement park home slash estate, which has got to be a happier place tonight. We'll get the latest from their. And a look back at one of the early bombshells in the Jackson scandal: The Martin Bashir documentary, in which the boy now known as the accuser, actually makes an appearance. And the molestation, he alleged, happened after that documentary.
All that ahead. Stay with us.
COOPER: Once again, the big news today: Michael Jackson acquitted of all charges, all ten count against him.
Joining us live now from Washington, publicist D.C. -- publicist Raymone Bain, spokesperson for Michael Jackson. Thanks, very much, for being with us, Miss Bane.
Your reaction? Obviously, you've got to be just elated.
RAYMONE BAIN, PUBLICIST: I'm ecstatic. It has been pure hell, Anderson, you just would not believe what all of us have gone through.
It has been, but I am so happy, and I want to say hello to Michael. I talked to him earlier today, and I am so happy for him right now, because we maintained his innocence throughout this entire trial. And I want to thank you, and others, for being so fair and balanced, because there were some who were just vilifying him out here.
But he always said that, "He had a strong faith in God, and he had a strong faith in the justice system." And I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the jurors, the people in Santa Maria who were so warm and so nice to all of us. And, you know, I just am just so happy, right now. I am exhausted, extremely exhausted, but I am so happy for him, right now. And I send my love out to him.
COOPER: You know, we don't take sides on this show. We try to look at things from all different angles. We leave the judgments to others.
I want to ask you, though, you talked to him, you said, earlier today. I assume...
COOPER: ... that was before the verdict. How -- I mean, how nervous -- I was watching those pictures of him driving into court, and trying to imagine what was going on inside that vehicle, inside his head. How was his mood going into court today?
BAIN: Well, when we talked, we had absolutely no idea that the verdict was coming down. I think it was announced by the court that the verdict would be coming in probably about an hour or so after I spoke to him, but I told him to be strong, and I told him I loved him, and he said he loved me. And I just am so happy. He has been nervous, but he's always had that peace about him. It hasn't been quite reported right, Anderson, but it's no need of my harping on that. He has been under a lot of stress.
COOPER: Let me ask you about that stress, because...
BAIN: And he was nervous.
COOPER: Because there are a lot of people who have seen these pictures of him coming into court today, and he seems to have lost a lot of weight. And obviously, he's been visiting the hospital. I know he complained of back pain, he had flu-like symptoms. What happens now to Michael Jackson? I mean, what is your advice to him now? Where does he go from here?
BAIN: I think he should rest. He needs it. His schedule has been so difficult. He has been up every morning at 4:30. He has been in the court every day. He's come home, he's taken care of his children. I always said he was trying to separate them from what was going out here. He wanted...
COOPER: Did they know about any of this?
BAIN: I think he has done a great job in protecting them from all of this. They are babies, they're children. And so, I don't know how he was able to balance the two, being in court and then going home, and not wanting his kids to know what his mood was. I take my hat off to him, because I don't think I could have been able to be as strong as he. I...
COOPER: Let me ask -- sorry -- let me just ask you. From -- you're a public relations expert, a publicist, you know how perception often frames debate. How do you advise him from here? I mean, do you tell him, look, whatever the reason, whatever the thinking of it is, do not continue to, you know, have kids sleeping over? I mean, where do you -- obviously from just a strategic standpoint, what advice do you give him now?
BAIN: Well, right now, I'm not giving any advice other than to let him rest and to enjoy the moment. I think it's plenty of time for me and everyone else that he knows in the world to call him up and give their advice. But right now, I think that what he needs to do is to rest, enjoy his children.
I am so happy, because he's always maintained his innocence, and I am happy that we are here at this day, where a jury of his peers have acquitted him of all of these false charges, Anderson, and I think for right now, Michael should just be able to enjoy himself, and he can deal with all of his strategies and what lies ahead later.
COOPER: Was there a moment in this case when something changed, or, you know, the jurors spoke earlier today, they said there wasn't one particular day or one particular piece of evidence that really made them come to the conclusion that they came. For you, watching this trial, was there some day where you went, uh-huh, you know, we're going to win? BAIN: I have always said that Tom Mesereau and the defense team conducted an excellent defense of Michael throughout this entire case, during the prosecuting witnesses and during the defense witnesses. Tom Mesereau and the defense team were excellent, and there was never a particular time that I thought, oh, here it is, we've got it. I thought that they were very consistent in their defense of Michael throughout the entire trial. I thought they were.
COOPER: Well, Raymone Bain, I know it's been a busy day for you. It's going to be a long night for you. Congratulations for your client, and we appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much.
BAIN: And thank you for having me.
COOPER: All right, you take care.
360 next, they stood by him through the case. We'll bring you the reaction from Michael Jackson's family and his fans. Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.
COOPER: And you are looking at a live picture right now outside the Neverland ranch. Michael Jackson, his family, are inside that ranch along with the defense team, outside. That is the picture you see by the front gate. Fans, well wishers, just the merely curious, all gathered to see and be there on this day where Michael Jackson has been acquitted on all 10 counts, not guilty 10 times over he heard some two hours ago.
One of the questionable things about this case really from the beginning was the timeline. The abuse was alleged to have occurred after that documentary by Martin Bashir aired. Now, in the documentary appeared the young boy who had become his accuser. We will not show you his face even now, nor mention his name, but the documentary deserves to be looked at again. Here's CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
MARTIN BASHIR, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Eight months ago, I put a proposal to Michael Jackson. Show me the real man, but show me everything, make nothing off limits. He thought about it, and then he said yes, come to Neverland.
TOOBIN (voice-over): Martin Bashir, the British journalist best known for interviewing the late Princess Diana, until he turned his camera on the King of Pop. The result, "Living With Michael Jackson."
BASHIR: You don't want to grow up?
MICHAEL JACKSON, ENTERTAINER: No, I am Peter Pan.
BASHIR: No, you're not. You're Michael Jackson.
JACKSON: I'm Peter Pan in my heart. TOOBIN: When it aired on ABC in February 2003, 27 million people in the United States tuned in and saw this.
JACKSON: But I have slept in a bed with many children. I sleep in a bed with all of them. When Macaulay Culkin were little, Kieran Culkin would sleep on this side, Macaulay Culkin on this side. His sister's in there. We all would just jam in the bed, and we would wake up like at dawn, and go in the hot air balloon.
TOOBIN: They also heard from the boy who would later accuse Jackson of molestation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was one night, I stood in there, and I asked him if I could say stay in his bedroom, would he let me stay in the bedroom, and I was, like, Michael, you can sleep on the bed, and he was like, no, no, you sleep on the bed. We're like, no, no, no. You sleep on the bed. And then he finally said, OK. If you love me, I'll sleep on the bed. I was, like, oh, man, and so I finally slept on the bed. It was fun that night.
TOOBIN: Jackson said he slept on the floor that night, but the images sparked a controversy, and the investigation that would result in this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment. No comment.
TOOBIN: But how did Martin Bashir convince the reclusive Jackson to let him into his world? The defense claims it was letters -- fawning, flattering letters, calling Jackson underappreciated, and Neverland an extraordinary, a breathtaking, a stupendous, an exhilarating and amazing place, and a beautiful landscape, encouraging all of us to become little children again.
BASHIR: Do you want to climb it now?
BASHIR: Let me hold the umbrella.
BASHIR: You go and climb it.
TOOBIN: The defense says Bashir made promises to Jackson, to talk about his efforts to help children with AIDS in Africa, but they were empty promises, according to the defense, to facilitate a project designed to humiliate, degrade and deceive.
As for Martin Bashir, he, like Jackson, rarely gives interviews and had little to say about his documentary in the days following the broadcast, and even less to say during his time on the witness stand, where he refused to answer questions, citing California's shield law for journalists.
TOOBIN: We called Martin Bashir today to get his response to the verdict, but we were unable to get any response from him.
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