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Star Likely Molested Boys, Says Juror
AFTER setting Michael Jackson free yesterday, a juror in the besieged entertainer's trial admitted that Jackson "probably has molested boys".
"I cannot believe that ... this man could sleep in the same bedroom (with young boys) for 365 straight days and not do something more than just watch television and eat popcorn," Raymond Hultman, 62, told a TV interviewer after he and his fellow jurors acquitted Jackson on all 10 counts, including child molestation, arising from his relationship with a 13-year-old boy in 2003.
"I mean, that doesn't make sense to me. But that doesn't make him guilty of the charges that were presented in this case and that's where we had to make our decision."
Mr Hultman's logic - that the prosecution's case was flawed - was at the heart of the unanimous acquittals at the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, which brought to an end a surreal 14-week trial featuring celebrity witnesses and salacious allegations about the one-time King of Pop.
"We expected better evidence," said another of the eight-woman, four-man panel, which deliberated for seven days.
"Something that was a little more convincing, and it just wasn't there. It wasn't there."
Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who prosecuted the case, was unrepentant.
"Obviously we're disappointed," Mr Sneddon said. "But in 37 years, I've never quarrelled with a jury's verdict and I'm not going to start now."
In the end, Mr Sneddon gambled and lost on the credibility of Arvizo and his family, especially that of his mother, Janet.
Jurors did not seem to believe the family, which has a history of making dubious allegations and was painted by Jackson's attorney, Tom Mesereau, as "con artists, actors and liars" who were out to get Jackson's money.
"We don't select our victims," Mr Sneddon said. "When a victim comes in and tells you they've been victimised and you believe it and you think the evidence supports that, you don't look at their pedigree. We thought we had a good case this time."
Mr Sneddon was also derailed when three of the young boys his witnesses alleged were in improper relationships with Jackson - actor Macauley Culkin and Australians Brett Barnes and Wade Robson - took to the stand to deny the allegations. His case was dealt a fatal blow when Jordy Chandler, whose 1993 case against Jackson was compelling enough for him to be given $US23.1 million ($30.1 million) in a settlement, chose not to become involved.
"It's like a David and Goliath story except in this case David didn't make it," Mr Sneddon said.
Jackson faced up to 20 years in Corcoran prison - in a unit housing Charles Manson and Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan - had he been convicted on 10 counts of giving alcohol to and molesting then 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003.
Jackson, who appeared heavily medicated and barely responded as the verdicts were read, celebrated with family and his defence team at his Neverland ranch, as reactions to the not guilty verdicts were as polarised as opinions on the 46-year-old's guilt.
But even one of Jackson's staunchest supporters, Jesse Jackson, in a veiled reference to his fondness for sleeping with young boys, said he hoped the singer would "assess the impact of the very impropriety of these problems that got him in this trouble".
Jackson had insisted in a TV interview in 2003 that sharing his bed with young boys was "a beautiful thing. It's very right, it's very loving. Because what's wrong with sharing a love?"
Elizabeth Taylor, a long-time friend of Jackson's, said: "Thank God, Michael is vindicated for all time. Now maybe people will leave him alone".
Former wife Debbie Rowe, the dermatological nurse who bore him two children, said she was "overjoyed that the justice system really works ... I would never have married a pedophile".
Although there was no reaction from Arvizo's family, the possibility of a civil lawsuit still exists.
"In civil, the jury applies a lower burden of proof, and Michael Jackson won't be able to escape testifying under oath, as he did in the criminal trial," said lawyer Gloria Allred. Ms Allred likened the case to that of OJ Simpson, who was acquitted of murdering his wife Nicole and a male friend but was found culpable in a later civil trial and ordered to pay more than $US30 million ($39 million) to the victims' families.
But Jackson's financial situation is so precarious, a civil judgment may not be worth pursuing. He is $US260 million in debt and has serious cash flow problems. And he is resisting parting with his last remaining valuable asset, a 50 per cent stake in Sony Music's catalogue - including rights to the Beatles' songs - which is reportedly worth more than $US400 million.
The most likely money spinner for him in the wake of his acquittal would be to embark on a global tour. He has not toured the US for more than 15 years, but his last tour, eight years ago in Asia and Europe, netted a reported $US100 million.
"Right now, he's going to rest but it's in his bones, it's in his blood," said brother Jermaine about the prospects of Jackson returning to work.
Australian tour promoter Kevin Jacobsen said he would jump at the chance to work with Jackson, should the singer decide to tour again.
The veteran promoter, who brought Jackson to Australia for his first tour in 1987, said Jackson was still a viable proposition.
"I would love to tour him around the world," Jacobsen said yesterday.
"Most people I've spoken to in the business in the United States say he won't get off the ground, but I believe he's such a phenomenon in the music business and such a great artist that if he came back and made another hit album he would be hot property once again."
The Australian (15-6-2005)
Jacko Porn Ruling
THE judge in US singer Michael Jackson's child molestation trial in California today denied a bid by prosecutors to show jurors evidence - including teen porn - seized from the entertainer's computers at his Neverland Valley Ranch.
Prosecutors said the four hard drives from the 14 computers police seized from a November 2003 raid on Jackson's estate showed the pop star was a practised web surfer who looked at teen-themed porn sites as well as sites related to Walt Disney, toys and photographs of adoptable children. Jackson's accuser, now 15, has told jurors in the trial that the 46-year-old pop star showed him and his brother pornographic websites during their first visit to Neverland.
Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss called the computer evidence "powerful corroboration" of that testimony by Jackson's accuser.
"This is important evidence that this defendant views teen erotic materials in his bedroom," Mr Auchincloss said.
But in a setback for prosecutors, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he would not let the material be introduced at trial.
Defence lawyers had argued that much of the material was not from February and March of 2003, the period during which Jackson is accused of sexually molesting the then-13-year-old boy and plying him with alcohol.
They also said the pornographic material in question was heterosexual, featuring girls or women, and that much of it had been automatically cached by the computers, meaning it was not clear that Jackson had retrieved it or seen it.
"The court will grant the defence motion not to allow," the material, Judge Melville said. "It does appear to be cached material.
"There's no way of knowing if anyone looked at it or not."
Jackson, who has compared himself to Peter Pan, could face more than 20 years in prison if he is convicted on all 10 counts he faces, including conspiring to commit child abduction, extortion and false imprisonment.
Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that evidence linked Jackson to the computers, including recovered aliases for instant messaging services - BigMike and King777Tut - that they suggested the pop star had used online.
The skirmishing over whether to admit the Neverland computers as evidence occurred while jurors were not present.
Jackson Weeps At Damaging Footage
MICHAEL Jackson has been reduced to tears in a tension-filled day at his molestation trial.
The pop superstar repeatedly dabbed his eyes and held a handkerchief to his face as he was forced to watch the damaging Martin Bashir documentary that sparked his molestation charges.
Jackson and Bashir, a British journalist, watched the documentary for 90 minutes just metres away from each other. Several times they exchanged angry glances.
At one point during the day, Jackson was even seen gesticulating madly towards Bashir as he was cross-examined in the witness box.
The dramatic showdown between Jackson and Bashir was the highlight of the first day of the prosecution case against Jackson.
The prosecution's attack began with the screening of Bashir's documentary 'Living with Michael Jackson', the ITV production that sent shockwaves throughout the world in 2003 after the singer told Bashir he slept with children.
The documentary showed Jackson holding hands with Gavin Arvizo, then aged 13 - the cancer victim he has now been charged with molesting at his Neverland ranch.
Jackson's mood shifted wildly during the documentary screening from bopping his head along as be saw himself sing classic songs, like ABC to crying as vision was shown of him in Germany, trying to feed his baby while under siege from fans.
Bashir sat just a few metres from Jackson and laughed during some scenes from the documentary.
At other moments, Bashir simply looked ahead and avoided eye contact with Jackson, who turned around twice to stare at the man he let into his life to make the documentary that could result in him spending 20 years in jail.
Just a few seats down from Bashir was Jackson's mother, Katherine, who had to watch as her son recounted in the documentary how he was bashed and whipped with a belt by his father, Joe Jackson.
As Bashir talked of becoming concerned about Jackson's increasingly erratic behaviour, the pop star seemed to struggle to keep his composure in the courtroom.
As footage was shown of Jackson dangling his child out of a hotel room window, it all became too much for the singer, who began to weep.
Later, Bashir was vigourously cross-examined by Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau. He was repeatedly quizzed about how he secured the interviews with Jackson.
Bashir refused an estimated 20 times to answer questions about the background to the interviews, claiming he was protected by Califomian laws from revealing the information.
Despite being ordered by the court to answer, he still refused and now faces contempt charges that could carry a brief jail sentence.
Bashir spent about an hour in the witness box, but Mr Mesereau said he would be called again to give evidence for the defence.
Earlier in the day, Mr Mesereau concluded his opening defence remarks with an assault on the credibility of Gavin Arvizo and his younger brother.
Responding to prosecution claims that Jackson gave alcohol to the children at Neverland, Mr Mesereau said they had broken into the wine cellar and were caught with alcohol.
"We will prove to you that the Arvizo kids at times were out of control - breaking into the wine cellar - and were caught drinking alcohol themselves," he said.
"The kids were also on the ferris wheel throwing objects at the elephants and people."
Mr Mesereau also countered prosecution remarks that Jackson had shown pornography to the two boys.
In comments indicating Jackson may give evidence in the case, Mr Mesereau said: "Michael Jackson will freely admit he does read girlie magazines from time to time. He absolutely denies showing them to children. He found those kids going through the magazines and locked them up in his briefcase."
Mr Mesereau also claimed there was no DNA evidence of the children ever found at Neverland, the Arvizo family was "using this case to win a civil case" and that the family's lawyer had lunch with CNN host Larry King and told him "this family wants money".
The trial resumes early today. The next few witnesses are expected to include Jackson's former public relations consultant, two air hostesses and possibly Gavin Arvizo's sister.
Adelaide Advertiser (3-3-2005)
First Day Of Michael Jackson Trial
OPENING arguments in the trial of Michael Jackson painted two starkly different portraits of the pop star.
Jurors yesterday heard Jackson was a scheming pedophile who sexually touched a 13-year- old cancer victim and, alternately, that he was the victim of a cruel extortion attempt by the boy and his mother.
Lawyers also clashed over whether Jackson's 1133ha Neverland ranch in California was a humanitarian refuge for needy children or a depraved environment in which minors were molested.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon portrayed Jackson as a calculating child molester who misused his fame, wealth and influence.
He said Jackson used the internet, wine and pornographic magazines to seduce and sexually touch Gavin Arvizo on two occasions witnessed by the boy's 12-year-old brother.
But defence counsel Thomas Mesereau said Jackson was a target in a false, vengeful accusation by the Arvizo family.
Mr Mesereau said both the boy and his mother had a history of approaching celebrities and asking them to donate money or sponsor the boy's dream of becoming a performer - attempts that were unsuccessful with comedian Jay Leno, actor Jim Carrey and boxer Mike Tyson.
Charged with child molestation, giving alcohol to a minor and conspiracy, Jackson, 46, sat largely motionless during opening statements in his trial.
Mr Sneddon said Jackson began molesting Gavin after a British television interview was broadcast in February, 2003, that featured the boy talking about how he had slept in Jackson's bed. In the interview, Jackson said the practice was innocent and insisted no sexual contact had occurred.
But Mr Sneddon said that on two occasions in early 2003 - after the interview aired - the boy's younger brother had walked into Jackson's bedroom and saw the star and his brother on the bed as Jackson fondled both himself and the boy.
Mr Mesereau called the allegations "bogus" and said the boy's mother, who had a history of making sexual assault claims and lying to welfare applications, was influencing her sons to make the charges.
"The most vulnerable celebrity became the mark - Michael Jackson," he said.
"There is a pattern by (the mother) and her children of ensnaring people for money."
Jackson has accused Mr Sneddon of waging a personal vendetta since 1993, when he investigated Jackson for an earlier child sex allegation that did not lead to criminal charges.
In a three-hour opening statement, Mr Sneddon said that three years before the alleged molestation, the boy bad a large tumour removed from his abdomen. His gall bladder, a kidney and a lymph node were removed- Jackson had invited Gavin and his family to his ranch after an intermediary said the boy wanted to meet Jackson.
The jury was told the boy privately called Jackson "Daddy" or "Michael Daddy".
Mr Sneddon said the entertainer virtually imprisoned the boy and his family at Neverland until they agreed to participate in "a rebuttal video" to the British documentary.
Mr Sneddon said after they took part, Jackson began molesting Gavin between February 20 and March 12, 2003.
The trial continues today.
Jacko Accused A Grifter
LOS ANGELES: The family of the boy who has accused Michael Jackson of child molestation are "professional plaintiffs" with a history of "outrageous" sex assault claims, the singer's lawyers claim.
Documents filed with the court where Jackson is on trial attempt to paint the 13-year-old's mother as a grifter bent on extortion.
The defence team has applied to tell the trial jury of the family's litigation history, including a 1999 sex assault suit against a US department store that resulted in a $US150,000 settlement.
Sunday Mail (20-2-2005)
Lawyers Weed Out 'Biased Jurors'
JURY selection in Michael Jackson's child-molestation trial hit the fast track yesterday as the judge and lawyers booted out 14 potential jurors, including three who said they probably could not be fair.
After a week's break caused by the pop star's stomach flu and a holiday weekend, Judge Rodney Melville prodded lawyers to zip through juror questioning, twice cutting off Jackson's lawyer Tom Mesereau and once clipping prosecutor Ron Zonen's grilling of individual jurors when they hit the 10-minute limit.
By day's end, lawyers for both sides had used up at least half of their 10 available peremptory challenges. If they continue at that rate, court watchers said, a jury could be in place in another day or two.
Jackson, 46, occasionally dabbed his nose with a tissue but otherwise seemed energetic, even joining the huddle with his lawyers when they were sizing up the jurors.
Judge Melville began the day by telling jurors: "We've had a couple of false starts here ... I know the letdown ... we're moving forward."
He is permitted to excuse an unlimited number of jurors for "cause" if they seem outwardly biased.
Only three jurors were dismissed for bias, including a woman who said she was twice falsely accused of crimes against children and admitted she had "a best-case scenario" in mind for the outcome of the trial.
Among the people prosecutors ousted was a woman, 38, who had danced cheerleading routines to Jackson's songs. And the defence rejected an engineer, 48, who said he had been the victim of an "improper incident" as a boy.
Also yesterday, the judge announced three more celebrity friends of Jackson's - actors Eddie Murphy and Macaulay Culkin, and singer Smokey Robinson - may be called to testify in his trial.
Sunday Mail (20-2-2005)
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