Trial of Michael Jackson
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|People v. Michael Jackson|
|Court||Santa Barbara County Superior Court|
|Full case name||People of the State of California v. Michael Joe Jackson|
|Decided||June 13, 2005|
|Judge(s) sitting||Rodney Melville|
People v. Jackson (full case name: 1133603: The People of the State of California v. Michael Joe Jackson) was a 2005 criminal trial held in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, in which American recording artist Michael Jackson was charged with molesting Gavin Arvizo, a 13-year-old boy whom the pop star had befriended. Jackson was indicted for four counts of molesting a minor, four counts of intoxicating a minor in order to molest him, one count of attempted child molestation, and one count of conspiring to hold the boy and his family captive at his 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) Neverland Ranch, as well as conspiring to commit extortion and child abduction. Jackson pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The trial spanned approximately 18 months, from Jackson's arraignment on January 16, 2004 to June 13, 2005, when the jury delivered a verdict of not guilty on all fourteen charges, which included the above ten plus four lesser misdemeanor counts.
- 1 Early events
- 2 Rebuttal video
- 3 Arvizo family
- 4 Arrest and investigation
- 5 Grand jury proceedings and indictment
- 6 Trial
- 7 Allegations of media bias against Jackson
- 8 Aftermath
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 Books
- 12 External links
In a 2003 Granada Television documentary titled Living with Michael Jackson, British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Jackson extensively over a period of 8 months. The film was broadcast in the UK on February 3, 2003, and in the U.S. three days later. In one scene, Jackson introduces the Arvizo children and they talk happily about Gavin's unexpected recovery from cancer. Then Gavin and Jackson are interviewed together, Gavin holding Jackson's hand and at one point resting his head on Jackson's shoulder. At the trial, Gavin testified that Jackson initiated the hand-holding, but that he had put his head on Jackson's shoulder because he was "really close to Jackson" and Jackson was his "best friend". In the video, Gavin tells Bashir about a night when he slept in Jackson's bed. He says that he and Jackson both offered to sleep on the floor and give each other the bed, but in the end Jackson slept on the floor while Gavin and Star slept in the bed. Jackson stated in the documentary that many children, including Macaulay Culkin, his younger brother Kieran, and his sisters had slept in Jackson's bed. When Bashir asked if Jackson could see why some people might disapprove, Jackson said, "See, when you say 'bed,' you're thinking sexual. They make that sexual. It's not sexual; we're going to sleep."
Later, the boy complained that he had not realized that the footage would be broadcast all over the world and that, after it aired, he was teased by his friends. His mother stated that she had not given Bashir permission to film her son and was not even aware of the filming prior to the broadcast.
Responding to the controversy, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. stated that, under California law, an adult sleeping in the same bed as a child is not a criminal offense, unless "affirmative, offensive conduct" occurs. Michael Jackson was initially charged in a criminal complaint by the Santa Barbara District Attorney's Office. However, before the case proceeded very far, Sneddon changed his mind and obtained an indictment before a county grand jury. Jackson was indicted for conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, extortion, child molestation, attempted child molestation and providing alcohol to an underage person for purposes of molestation. His alleged co-conspirators were not indicted. Some sources were critical of the charges, believing them an attempt to ameliorate PR damage caused by the documentary. Jackson was indicted based on the accuser's allegations of events which allegedly began after the documentary aired and after he and Jackson had already been friends for several years. Part of the defense against this accusation was that it would be absurd for Jackson to begin molesting the boy only as soon he was suspected of the crime. As his attorney put it,
The Bashir documentary was aired in the US on February 6, 2003; Gavin Arvizo's given time frame for the alleged molestations was February 20, 2003 through March 12, 2003. The family had been acquainted with Michael Jackson for almost 2 years, but the alleged victim claimed he was molested after the footage was filmed and at a time "the whole world was already watching."
In response to the Bashir documentary, a second video was aired called "Take Two" or "The Footage You Were Never Meant to See". It includes Bashir praising Michael's qualities as a father and his relationships with children in general, while in the Bashir documentary, he says he is "disturbed" by Michael's relationships with children. Further, an interview with the family was filmed on the night of February 19, 2003, in videographer Hamid Moslehi's home. This part of the production was never aired because Moslehi refused to hand it over following a financial dispute with Jackson. It was found by police in a search of Moslehi's home in November 2003, and it showed the accuser's family praising Jackson, with the accuser insisting no molestation had occurred and that Jackson was "innocent". Gavin Arvizo, his sister Davellin, brother Star, and mother Janet were "upfront" and said that inappropriate behavior had "absolutely not occurred" while also calling him a father figure. They also insisted that although they had slept in Jackson's bed, Jackson himself always slept on the floor. To further the rebuttal, Janet Arvizo issued the statement:
She also stated that she was considering taking legal action against Martin Bashir.
On February 20, 2003, Janet Arvizo was interviewed by the Sensitive Case Unit of the Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS), as part of an investigation jointly carried out with the LAPD. A school official from the Los Angeles Unified School District had lodged a complaint out of concern for the boy who would later become Jackson's accuser and for his younger brother. After watching the Bashir documentary, the official suspected sexual abuse by Jackson and general neglect by the mother. The entire family insisted that no inappropriate contact with Jackson occurred; moreover, the mother said that the children were never left alone with Jackson. The case was closed and the charges marked as "unfounded." Afterwards, in November 2003, when outside interest arose in connection with charges against Jackson, a report was made.
Plans for a trip to Brazil, final departure from Neverland
In mid February 2003, Marc Schaffel, Michael Jackson, and Janet Arvizo decided to take a trip to Brazil for one week while the Arvizo family was to be moved into a new apartment and the children checked into a new school district. These moves were a result of the negative attention received by Michael Jackson and the Arvizo family after the Bashir documentary. Marc Schaffel instructed Jackson's employees to help with preparations for the trip to Brazil and with the family's move to the new apartment and the Arvizo children's registration in the new school district. After the interview with Child Services, Janet Arvizo brought a Jackson employee to meet with Karen Walker of the Los Angeles DCFS. Walker advised the Jackson employee that the Arvizo family were being harassed by the media as a result of the Bashir Documentary and needed an apartment suitable for a family as well as the children to be checked into school. The trip was disclosed to Walker and the apartment change and school district registration would be made while on vacation in Brazil.
The family's plans for a trip to Brazil would play a role in future allegations—and more specifically, in the conspiracy charge with the non-indicted co-conspirators. After all preparations were completed for the trip to Brazil and for the move to the new apartment, Janet decided to call off the vacation, which was immediately canceled. According to witnesses, the Jackson camp told the family that death threats were made against the family in relation to the airing. The Arvizos claimed that Jackson had planned to trap the family in Brazil to keep them from making allegations. However, the defense asked why Jackson would buy the family two-way tickets to and from Brazil if his plans were to "trap" the family in another country.
The children returned to Jackson's Neverland ranch and a day later their mother joined them after resuming preparations for the trip to Brazil—although, she would later testify, she did not really want to go. From February 25 to March 2 the family, along with some of Jackson's staff, stayed in a hotel in Calabasas, California, and went shopping in preparation for the trip to Brazil. After that, the family stayed at Neverland again. On March 10, the mother and the accuser drove from Neverland to Kaiser Permanente Hospital with a urine sample of the accuser, Gavin, for a scheduled medical check-up. On the way to the hospital, Janet spilled the urine sample on the passenger-side floor of the car. When asked by a Jackson employee what happened, Janet said that she spilled the urine accidentally. At the hospital, Gavin received numerous tests for his kidney, including a dye test. The urine sample, however, was insufficient for one of the tests, and it came back inconclusive. Afterward, the accuser returned to Neverland, while the mother went to stay with her fiance. It would be the boys' last stay at the Neverland ranch. Apparently, the accuser was very angry with his mother that she would not allow him to return.
Mother of accuser seeks legal advice
Janet Arvizo first approached attorney Bill Dickerman to discuss taking legal action against Martin Bashir. Dickerman referred her to Larry Feldman, the attorney who represented Jordan Chandler, the first accuser, in 1993. Feldman then contacted child psychologist Stan Katz, who told Santa Barbara sheriff's investigator Paul Zelis that "Mr. Feldman actually referred these kids to me. Because they had come to him in this lawsuit." It was then that allegations of child molestation surfaced, and Katz reported this to the authorities, as is compulsory for someone in his profession in such cases. He said in a taped conversation that he didn't consider Jackson a pedophile but a "regressed 10-year-old." Larry Feldman was the attorney who helped Jordan Chandler win an out-of-court settlement reportedly for $20 million, and Dr. Katz was the psychologist that assisted Evan Chandler in uncovering whether his son was suffering abuse. The defense later focused on Feldman and Katz, stressing that Janet went to the same people who helped obtain a settlement from Jackson in 1993 prior to ever going to the police. The circumstances by which the Arvizos' allegations surfaced aroused suspicion over their claims and caused some to believe that the family was merely seeking money. Others believed that Janet sought legal advice perhaps because she was afraid that she could be charged with child endangerment for allowing her sons to sleep in Jackson's bed.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department investigation
In June 2003, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office started an investigation. In July 2003 they first interviewed the family. On November 18, 2003, a team of more than 70 investigators from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant upon Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Said search has been criticized as having involved an excessively large number of law enforcement personnel. The district attorney opened a website for an 'open casting call' for anyone who had been molested by Michael Jackson and/or who had any information against Jackson.
Jackson's attorney alleged that the charges were made in retaliation by the family after the family realized that Jackson was not going to continue supporting them financially. The family was portrayed during trial as exhibiting a long history of attempting to extort celebrities and abusing legal and governmental systems.
J.C. Penney: alleged assault, litigation and psychiatric analysis
In August 1998, the Arvizo family was detained on a shoplifting charge at a J. C. Penney department store in West Covina, California. According to J.C. Penney, Gavin and Star Arvizo were sent out of the store by their father with an armload of stolen clothes, the family was detained, and Janet started a "scuffle" with the security guards. The shoplifting charge was dropped, but Janet filed a lawsuit, saying that when she was detained she was "viciously beaten" by three security officers, one of whom was female. In her booking photo from the arrest she appears uninjured, but for the lawsuit she submitted two pictures showing bruises all over her body. The paralegal she hired would later testify at the Jackson trial that Janet told her the beating was actually inflicted by her husband. J.C. Penney hired a psychiatrist to evaluate Janet Arvizo and found her to have rehearsed her children into supporting her story and to be both "delusional" and "depressed," although Janet's own doctor found her to be only the latter. More than two years after the original alleged incident, Janet added a further charge that one of the male officers had "sexually fondled" her breasts and pelvis area for "up to seven minutes," a claim which shocked even her lawyer. Ultimately the department store settled out of court with the family for $152,000.
Jackson's accuser, Gavin Arvizo, was officially anonymized as "John Doe" by the court and the media until February 2005.[unreliable source?] He was born in December 1989, and was 13 years old between February 20 and March 12, 2003, when the alleged crimes were said to have been committed. In 2000, Arvizo was diagnosed with cancer and had his spleen and a kidney removed. Jackson organized a blood drive and accommodated for his chemotherapy treatments. Soon thereafter, Jamie Masada, the owner of the comedy club Laugh Factory, fulfilled Arvizo's wish to meet Jackson, and the boy visited Neverland eight times. On two of those occasions, he and his family met Michael Jackson; during the other six times, Jackson was either not home or not available. In 2001, there were no visits, but Arvizo had 20 or so telephone conversations with Jackson regarding his recovery, as the cancer was in remission.
Gavin's father, David Arvizo, visited Neverland several times in 2000, sometimes with the whole family and at other times with only the children. After 2000, the accuser's parents were divorced, and his mother received custody of him, his older sister, and his younger brother. In 2002, Arvizo pleaded no contest to spousal abuse, and in 2003 pleaded no contest to child cruelty. After completing classes in parenting and anger management, David Arvizo applied to have a three-year restraining order against him temporarily lifted to allow him to see his three children. He claimed he wanted to see for himself how his son's health was and hoped to find out whether the boy and Jackson had sexual contact. He blamed his ex-wife for allowing the boy to sleep in the same room with Jackson and also claimed that she had been in a mental hospital. As of late 2004, David insisted: "My children are routinely rehearsed by their mother, Janet, to do or say whatever she wishes."
When the Arvizo family and Jackson were on good terms, their mother, Janet, allegedly encouraged her children to call Jackson "Daddy." Janet, who also went by the names Janet Ventura and Janet Jackson, was identified as the most problematic of the prosecution witnesses. Besides her credibility issues, her behavior in the courtroom was widely criticized. Roger Friedman reported, "it's pretty clear that she's mentally ill in some way" and that "when she first starts testifying, she's very sedate, and as time goes by, and possibly medication wears off, she becomes crazier and crazier, and you can hear people in the courtroom saying 'here it comes.'" On a few occasions, the courtroom erupted in laughter over her answers. After the trial, jurors criticized her habit of snapping her fingers and staring at them. She was often unresponsive even to the prosecution, was defensive over seemingly small issues, and was admonished by the judge for arguing. She used repeated catchphrases such as, "It's burned inside my memory," and "Money doesn't buy happiness." She often answered questions with tangential speeches addressed directly to the jury, the press, or the defendant. Defense attorney Tom Mesereau refused to object to her rambling and emotional diatribes, which resulted in prosecutor Sneddon repeatedly objecting to his own witness's answers. It was also revealed that Janet Arvizo had enrolled all three of her children in acting classes and had accused a JC Penney security guard of sexually molesting her in 1998. In February 2006, Janet Arvizo was convicted of welfare fraud for failing to report the $150,000 civil settlement in that case. She was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and an $8,600 fine.
Arrest and investigation
Warrant and arrest
Along with the warrant to search the premises was a warrant for the arrest of Jackson. Michael was in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the time recording a music video for his most recent hit single "One More Chance" from his greatest-hits album 'Number Ones,' which had been released at midnight, just hours before the warrants were issued and the allegations broke in the media. On November 20, Jackson flew in a leased jet to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport and surrendered himself to California police. Driven by police to the Santa Barbara County Jail, he emerged from the police vehicle in handcuffs. Many lawyers and Jackson supporters saw it as an attempt by both police and media to convince the public of Jackson's guilt, while some attached a racial element to the police's actions. He was charged with "lewd or lascivious acts" with a child younger than 14 under section 288(a) of the California Penal Code.
Jackson posted $3 million bail, later requesting a reduced amount. The prosecution opposed this reduction, arguing that Jackson might relocate to another country as a fugitive and citing Andrew Luster as an example: Luster had fled to Mexico, notwithstanding his $1 million bail bond. Many argued that Jackson had good reason to be angered at the excessive bail, as Phil Spector had to pay only $1 million in his murder trial. After Jackson's acquittal, the judge ordered that the bail be returned to Michael.
The judge, 62-year-old Rodney Melville, had temporarily exempted Jackson from detention in the U.S. until January 6, 2004, allowing Jackson to schedule a possible trip to Britain. Jackson, however, did not make use of this exemption. Shortly after his arrest, he was required to surrender his passport to Santa Barbara authorities. At the time of his booking, his weight had dipped to 120 pounds (54 kg; 8.6 st), a notably low weight for a 5-foot-11-inch (180 cm) middle-aged man. On November 23, fans held a series of public vigils to proclaim his innocence.
On November 25, 2003, it was revealed that, unknown to Jackson, a third party had secretly wired the private jet chartered to take him and his attorney from Vegas to California with hidden cameras and audio-recording devices, intending to sell video footage of the two to major television and radio networks for a large amount of money; all networks declined them, however. A restraining order prohibiting the videotape from being shown to any third parties was issued against the jet company. Furthermore, Jackson's party filed a lawsuit against the perpetrators demanding $500,000,000. On November 26, 2003, it was discovered that XtraJet, the company that found the audio recordings and hidden cameras on Jackson's plane, on Monday, showed the video to several news organizations on November 24. Fox News Channel reported that the tape shows Jackson calm and relaxed on the plane. Jackson's legal team (at that point) were awarded $18 million in damages in 2008. XtraJet went bankrupt.
Jackson at the police station
The Santa Barbara County sheriff released a videotape showing Jackson's arrest. They also released an audiotape of his ride to the police station. In it, Jackson complains about the handcuffs and is politely told by an officer how he can relieve the discomfort. He is heard to be whistling, and he asks for the air conditioning to be turned on (it was). Police allege these tapes prove that Jackson's claims are false; Jackson, along with his family, claim that what is being shown is merely a biased portion of what actually occurred. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer ordered an independent investigation into Jackson's complaints. After interviewing 163 witnesses, the complaints were rejected in August 2004.
On December 18, 2003, Jackson was charged with committing seven counts of child molestation in February and March 2003, and with two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in order to carry out the molestation, all pertaining to the same boy under 14. The felony complaint stated that Jackson had, on seven occasions, "willfully, unlawfully, and lewdly committed a lewd and lascivious act upon, and with, the boy's body and certain parts and members thereof, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, and gratifying the lust, passions, and sexual desires" of Jackson and the boy and that this sexual conduct had been "substantial"; also that, on two of these occasions, Jackson had administered to the boy an intoxicating agent with intent thereby to enable and assist himself to carry out the aforementioned act. Jackson denied these allegations and said that the sleepovers were nonsexual. While he described the boy on whose statements the accusations were based as "a sweet child," he maintained that the boy was manipulated by greedy parents.
At the prosecution's request, the judge issued a gag order forbidding the following parties to talk to the news media: the defendant, the prosecutor, defense counsel, any attorney working in their offices, their agents, staff, experts, any judicial officer or court employee, any law enforcement employee, and any agency involved in the case or any persons subpoenaed or expected to testify. The purpose was to prevent people among whom a jury would be selected from being influenced. However, the judge would consider proposals to allow either side to answer reporters' questions about rumors surrounding the case.
Jackson was arraigned on January 16, 2004, at the court in Santa Maria. He was admonished by the judge for arriving 20 minutes late. Jackson was represented by attorneys Mark Geragos, Benjamin Brafman, Steve Cochran, and Robert Sanger. Jackson entered a plea of "not guilty." Judge Melville turned down a media request for publication of 82 pages of documents and related tape recordings on the grounds of violation of the parties' privacy rights and complicating the process of selecting an unbiased jury. The request concerned the boy's accounts of alleged happenings, interviews with his family, statements made during the child's psychological counseling, and information about the Chandlers' case.
In a court session on February 13, 2004, it was revealed that the defense had just received 400 pages of evidence from the lead prosecutor and that hundreds more were expected. The judge said he wanted the trial to begin before the end of 2004. Both sides agreed that was possible. Jackson was not present. In the court session of April 2, 2004, the judge ordered papers to be released from the previous $3 million lawsuit started by the accuser's family against J.C.Penney department store (see above); Jackson's defense said they would be used to show Jackson's innocence. On April 5, 2005, Jackson posted a $3,000,000 bail bond from Plotkin Bail Bonds of Norwalk, California, paying a bond fee of $300,000.
Grand jury proceedings and indictment
Grand jury proceedings (without defense counsel and without a judge present) in Santa Barbara, starting in March 2004, led to Jackson's indictment on April 21, 2004. The grand jury had nineteen jurors; the indictment required the votes of at least twelve jurors. Prosecution witnesses testified without defense cross-examination. The judge ruled that witnesses before the grand jury could talk to defense attorneys about their knowledge of the case as long as the witnesses did not tell what they saw in the grand jury room or what questions they were asked and their answers. Many grand jury witnesses were snuck into the building where the grand jury was meeting, sometimes covered in blankets to hide their identities. In February 2005 The Smoking Gun published the Grand Jury transcripts (1903 pages).
On April 25, 2004, Mark Geragos and Ben Brafman were replaced as Jackson's lead counsel by one-time Robert Blake defense attorneys Thomas Mesereau and Susan Yu. Steve Cochran and Robert Sanger continued to represent Mr. Jackson, although Cochran left the team prior to trial (See transcripts for case no. 1133603). The second arraignment was held on April 30, 2004. Brian Oxman was brought onto the team by Mesereau. The new charges, to which Jackson pleaded "not guilty", were similar to the earlier ones, allegedly "on or about and between" February 20 and March 12, 2003, but with the addition of conspiracy involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. The first two referred to the allegation that the accuser, although he was free to move within Neverland, was at some stages not allowed to leave the ranch, even when his mother wanted this to occur.
The jury selection for the trial began on January 31, 2005, and the trial ended on June 13, 2005, when the jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict on all fourteen charges. Of the twelve jurors, eight were women and four were men. Eight alternate jurors consisted of four men and four women. Ron Zonen conducted the jury selection for the prosecution; Tom Mesereau for the defense. Tom Sneddon gave the opening statement for the prosecution; Tom Mesereau for the defense. Ron Zonen gave the closing argument for the prosecution; Tom Mesereau for the defense. Tom Sneddon, Ron Zonen, Mag Nicola, and Gordon Auchinloss examined witnesses for the prosecution; Tom Mesereau and Robert Sanger for the defense. Brian Oxman was removed from the defense mid trial by Mesereau and Yu. From outside the courtroom, 2,200 reporters covered the trial—more than the O. J. Simpson and Scott Peterson trials combined. Because no television cameras were allowed inside the courtroom, E! and British Sky Broadcasting broadcast a re-enactment of the trial.
The first witness the prosecution called was Martin Bashir, who unsuccessfully fought his subpoena and brought an attorney with him from ABC. His direct testimony was short; he gave some career background and testified that he had produced the show Living With Michael Jackson, which was then played in its entirety for the courtroom. In cross examination, Bashir's attorney objected to most of the questions, citing the California Constitution's journalist shield law and the First Amendment privilege for journalists, which he believed exempted Bashir from questions relating to unpublished footage of his documentary or to information about how it was prepared and produced. Judge Melville decided that he would overrule the objections, giving Bashir the choice to either answer or to follow his lawyer's advice, while Melville would review the testimony later to decide whether to charge Bashir with contempt of court. Bashir refused to answer any questions his attorney objected to, which mostly pertained to examples the defense suggested of Bashir's deceiving and manipulating Jackson.
On the morning of March 10, 2005, Jackson was hospitalized for a back injury. The judge threatened to issue an arrest warrant and forfeiture of the bail if Jackson did not appear in court within an hour. Still wearing pajama pants and slippers, Jackson was rushed to the courthouse. This incident was heavily covered in the media, with Bill Fallon even suggesting Jackson's attire indicated his guilt, calling Jackson "a nut," "mentally ill," and adding, "if anybody has any question about Michael Jackson being able to commit this crime...this proves he doesn't listen to anybody."
The first alleged sexual act was of Jackson masturbating Gavin on Jackson's bed. Jackson allegedly initiated the molestation by urging the accuser to masturbate, telling him that boys who didn't "might rape a girl." However, in a police interview before the trial, Gavin was asked what he knew about masturbation and he replied, "My grandma explained it to me. She told me that...if men don't do it...they might go ahead and rape a woman." When asked about this coincidence, the accuser maintained that both his grandmother and Jackson had happened to tell him the same thing, but with different motives. The accuser testified that during that first sexual incident, he was wearing pajamas Jackson had given him, and that the two of them "were under the covers." Jackson allegedly manipulated the accuser's genitals for about five minutes, causing the accuser to ejaculate (count 2). Afterwards, the accuser averred, Jackson told him "it was okay" and they "just went to sleep." The next night, Gavin testified, "the same thing happened again" (count 3), in Jackson's bed, both of them wearing Jackson's pajamas, but now they were on top of the covers and maybe "watching T.V. or something." This time, Jackson also tried to guide the accuser's hand to Jackson's genitals, but the accuser pulled away (count 6). Gavin couldn't remember for sure if he ejaculated the second time but he thought he did. In an earlier interview with Sneddon, the accuser claimed he had been molested before the rebuttal video, but in court he testified that all molestation took place after the video was filmed. The number of times he claimed to have been molested is also unclear, as he only testified in court about two incidents, but he had previously told Sergeant Steve Robel that he thought it was "between five and seven times."
The accuser's 14-year-old brother Star testified that he'd walked into Jackson's bedroom and seen Jackson masturbating himself and the sleeping accuser. He testified that he'd meant to go to sleep in Jackson's room, had found the door "kind of locked, so [he] pushed it, and it opened," and he walked some ways into the room and stopped when he saw what Gavin and Michael were doing. He testified they were on the bed "outside of the covers," Jackson was on his back with his eyes closed, and Gavin was "curled up" facing away from Jackson and was "kind of snoring." Star couldn't remember what his brother had been wearing but said it might have been "pants or underwears," and that Jackson was wearing "socks, underwears, and an undershirt," but later said Jackson's "hand was in his pants." He variously used the words "pants" and "underwears" for both Gavin and Jackson to describe what they were wearing. One aspect that weakened his testimony was that Star, the only witness to the alleged molestation, claimed he twice walked in on Jackson molesting Gavin and was completely unnoticed, even while tripping the alarm system in the hallway leading to Jackson's bedroom. An alarm or bell would sound whenever anyone approached, and Star claimed that on both occasions the alarm went off and Jackson didn't hear it. Neither did he hear nor see the boy come and go. Star said he stood watching for about four seconds before he "just went back to the guest units." Star testified that two days later he had an almost identical experience. He allegedly walked into Jackson's bedroom and saw that "the same thing was happening," with Jackson "masturbating, stroking up and down" and his other hand moving around in Star's sleeping "brother's underwears." This time Star only stayed for three seconds before returning to the guest units. Star's account of the sexual act on the second occasion matched neither the description he gave during an interview with psychologist Stanley Katz nor his statement given in police interviews in 2003. Star Arvizo said in an interview with the psychologist on May 29, 2003, that he witnessed Jackson placing his hand on Gavin's crotch outside his clothes. On July 7, 2003, during his first interview with sheriff's investigators, Star changed his story. He claimed that during the first incident Jackson placed his left hand under the front of his brother's pajama pants. Star Arvizo changed his account still a third time during a police interview on August 13, 2003, when he claimed that Jackson had placed his hand inside the front of his brother's boxer shorts. Dr. Katz' grand jury testimony about what Star had told him included a story about Jackson "rubbing his penis against Gavin's buttocks" and another about smelling marijuana. In court, Star denied that he'd made the allegations and refused Mesereau's offer to "refresh [his] recollection [by showing Star] that page of [Katz'] testimony."
The accuser and his brother both testified that on one brief occasion, they saw Jackson naked, but the boys described the incident differently. According to Star, the brothers were watching a movie on Jackson's bed and Jackson came in to fetch "something." Star testified that Jackson "had a hard-on," and that he told the boys, who were "grossed out," that nudity was natural. Star said Jackson stayed for two minutes and sat on the bed, but neither brother spoke a word during that time. According to Gavin, the boys were "just laying there" when Jackson "ran up there and got something and went back downstairs," without saying anything. Gavin did not describe Jackson as having an erection.
The accuser's mother, Janet Arvizo, testified that on a flight from Miami to Los Angeles, she "saw Michael licking Gavin's head" while he was asleep. Before she testified about it, she turned to the jury and said, "please don't judge me." Jackson allegedly had an arm around the boy and licked his hair "over and over" while everyone else on the plane was asleep. Janet said she didn't tell any one what she'd seen, and she continued to let her children stay at Neverland, and she later testified that at a point weeks after that incident, she still didn't have "any concerns about Mr. Jackson at all". Star contradicted his mother when he testified that he had been awake to also witness Jackson lick Gavin's head on the plane; he didn't say anyone was asleep, just that the accuser was not feeling well and had leaned against Jackson's chest. Cynthia Bell, a flight attendant on that flight, said she had not seen Jackson "cuddling" with Arvizo during the flight, but testified that she had seen Jackson put his arm around the accuser while he was listening to music.
Many witnesses testified that the Arvizo children were poorly behaved and demanding. Jackson staff members testified that they broke into Mr. Jackson's wine cellar and had been caught in Jackson's bedroom on their own, going through his things. Housekeeper Kiki Fournier testified that the guest quarters assigned to the boys were trashed by them, and that at one point the accuser's brother pointed a knife at her in Jackson's kitchen. Cynthia Bell, a flight attendant on a plane carrying the Arvizo children, Jackson and others, testified that Gavin was demanding, complained about the food, and acted unruly during the flight.
Witness George Lopez, once friends with the accuser's family, gave the family money, but had a falling out when the father kept asking for more. Lopez also described an incident when the Arvizos allegedly tried to frame him for stealing $300 from Gavin's wallet. This allegation was used to illustrate a pattern of family behavior. However, the accuser's sister, Davellin, testified that these problems were all caused by her father before the divorce. Other popular comedians testified about their run-ins with the Arvizos. Chris Tucker claimed he had felt sorry for them and had taken them out, bought them things, and given them money; but he felt the Arvizos expected too much, calling him their "brother" and taking advantage of him. He testified that he had warned Michael Jackson about the family, whom he called "cunning." Jay Leno testified that Gavin Arvizo, with a woman directing him in the background, called him and praised him lavishly. He was suspicious and ordered his staff not to let any more calls from them come through.
Defense attorneys repeatedly introduced evidence suggesting that the accuser's mother, Janet Arvizo, had been guilty of welfare fraud and perjury. Arvizo pled the Fifth Amendment regarding alleged welfare fraud, and was allowed to testify without discussing the accusations. She admitted that she had lied under oath in the J.C. Penney case. Arvizo later pled "no contest" to charges of welfare fraud and perjury and was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service.
At the trial, the accuser admitted to telling his school administrator that Jackson had not molested him.
Conspiracy and false imprisonment
Count 1 of the charges was conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, and extortion. Janet Arvizo claimed she and her family had been held captive at Neverland as well as at a couple of hotels when traveling with Jackson. She expressed her mistrust of "the Germans," Dieter Weisner and Ron Konitzer. She testified that they pretended to want to protect her, telling her the rebuttal video "would appease the killers," but that "Michael, Ronald, Dieter, Frank, and Vinnie...ended up being the killers." At one point, Janet testified that she'd known what questions she'd be asked in the rebuttal video, that Frank "went over" them with her on the phone beforehand and told her to praise Michael. On another day of her testimony, she claimed "the Germans" had scripted every word of the video, even the hand-holding, laughing, and the outtakes when they appear to think the camera isn't on, and the Germans had "worked with [them] daily, numerous times" to learn it all. House manager Jesus Salas testified that the accuser's mother was at no time held at Neverland against her will and that she had never complained of her children being taken advantage of at Neverland. Other staff testified that the idea that the family were prisoners of Neverland was ludicrous, that there was no fence surrounding the property and that the guards did not carry weapons. During their alleged captivity, the Arvizos took shopping trips into town, billing $3,312.05 worth of purchases to Michael Jackson. They also met with their lawyer and visited a Federal building during this time, making phone calls to various people, though never the police. Janet testified that she was dropping hints "in code" about her kidnapping during the calls, and explained that she never openly asked anyone for help because of the death threats Jackson's co-conspirators allegedly made toward her parents. Janet and Star claimed that Jackson was preventing them from knowing times or dates. When Mesereau pointed out that there were clocks visible "almost everywhere" in Neverland, including a giant "flower clock" on a prominent hill, Star admitted that he was surrounded by clocks but claimed that they had the wrong times. Janet's claims included that she was restricted to "one meal per day," and that Jackson's associates had threatened to make her children "disappear" via hot-air balloon. The Arvizos "escaped" Neverland three times (in Rolls-Royces and limos) but were "convinced" to return each time. When the prosecution presented a complicated chart of phone calls between Jackson's "unindicted co-conspirators" trying to show that they were scheming about the Arvizos' captivity, they accidentally proved that Jackson was not even at Neverland for several of the days during the 2 1/2-week time frame given for the alleged molestation and may have been in Miami the day the molestation and conspiracy were alleged to have started.
The prosecution alleged that Jackson showed pornography to children at Neverland, including the accuser and his brother. The raids on Neverland produced an accumulation of ten years' worth of heterosexual adult magazines such as Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler along with various heterosexual pornographic videos and websites on his computer. The prosecution alleged these were used for grooming young victims. Brett Barnes and Wade Robson, two men who had been friends with Jackson since childhood, testified that they had not been "aware that [Jackson] possessed sexually explicit material" until the trial. There were also a few books seized (from a library of thousands) that the prosecution suggested were evidence of homosexuality and/or pedophilia. Boys Will Be Boys included pictures of boys, many naked, in various non-sexual activities such as climbing a tree or sitting on a bench. The book had an inscription reading, "To Michael: From your fan. Love XXXOOO Rhonda – 1983, Chicago." Wade Robson testified he considered Boys Will Be Boys "not a pornographic book," and said he would not be concerned about its owner being in the same bed with a 12-year-old. Another book, The Boy: A Photographic Essay, was inscribed, "Look at the true spirit of happiness and joy in these boys' faces. This is the spirit of boyhood, a life I never had and will always dream of. This is the life I want for my children. MJ." The book contained pictures of boys in various situations by different photographers, including pictures taken during the filming of the 1963 Lord of the Flies film and showed the boys on the set, usually clothed but sometimes nude, playing in the sand, reading comic books, and having pillow fights. The only book depicting male sex acts was a rare, out-of-print book called A Sexual Study of Man which featured many images of adult men engaged in all kinds of homosexual intercourse. Robson said he would be concerned if the book's owner were to share his bed with a boy, but amended that he would not mind if he considered the total picture of all the material in question. Robson testified that he believed Jackson had a "sexual interest in women," and that he had never seen "anything that suggested pedophilia" at Neverland. Jackson's multiple residences were searched numerous times by various agencies over a period of days, without any child pornography ever being found. The FBI analyzed sixteen computers and found "nothing notable" contained in their files.
Gavin and Star Arvizo testified that Jackson introduced them to pornography. Star described a time when he, his brother, Frank Tyson, and Michael Jackson had looked at "pornography sites" on Gavin's computer. The pictures were of naked women, and Jackson had allegedly whispered to his sleeping son, "you're missing some pussy," before they all watched The Simpsons and went to sleep. Star also testified to twice looking through adult magazines with Gavin, Jackson, and Aldo Cascio. He identified a picture of a particular Barely Legal magazine that he said Jackson showed the boys, when Mesereau pointed out that the magazine had not been published until August 2003—five months after the Arvizos had left Neverland. Fingerprints of Gavin and Michael were found on a particular magazine, but it was only analyzed for fingerprints after the 2004 grand jury proceeding when Gavin handled the magazine without gloves.
Asked about the pornography by Reuters journalist Dan Whitcomb following the verdict, jurors said they did not find it relevant to the charges against Jackson, because they were legal magazines that "anyone can own."
The charges included four counts of administering alcohol to a minor, which the jury could find was done either with intent to molest (a felony charge), or without (a misdemeanor). All three Arvizo children testified that Michael Jackson had served them alcohol. Gavin testified that the first time he ever drank alcohol was in the wine cellar with Jackson, where he allegedly swallowed a quantity of vodka thinking it was water. He testified that after the Miami trip, he was drinking wine, vodka, rum, or bourbon every night that Jackson was home. However, in an earlier police interview, he said he "didn't drink a lot" at Neverland. The prosecution's "grooming" theory held that Jackson used alcohol to lower Gavin's inhibitions in order to molest him, and the accuser testified that the first time he was molested, he and Jackson had just come "back from drinking in the arcade." He also described a time when he was undergoing urine tests related to his cancer treatment, and he worried alcohol would be detected, but was allegedly pressured by Jackson to drink anyway and not take the test. Star's first time drinking alcohol, he claimed, was on the flight back from Miami. Jackson allegedly handed him a Diet Coke can filled with wine. Star testified he did not know what the drink was when he tasted it, and that it reminded him of the smell of rubbing alcohol (a comparison Gavin also made). Star said Gavin and Michael were sharing the soda can and acting "really weird." However, Cynthia Bell, a flight attendant who had served Jackson on the Miami flight and other flights, testified that she never saw him share his drink with Gavin. She testified that she had devised the custom of serving Jackson wine in Diet Coke cans during flights, because Michael Jackson didn't like to drink alcohol in front of his children.
Evidence of prior bad acts
The prosecution, to show a pattern of behavior, claimed they would present evidence, admissible under California Evidence Code 1108, that Jackson had molested five boys in the past. Three of the people they named, Macaulay Culkin, Brett Barnes, and Wade Robson, all testified that they were long-time family friends of Jackson and had slept in his bed, but that Jackson never molested them or did anything sexual with them. Culkin said he'd "never seen him do anything improper with anybody" and called the allegations "absolutely ridiculous," while Barnes said they made him "very mad." All three men described the time they spent in Jackson's 2-story bedroom as childish fun, with video games, movies, and many people sleeping in the room at one time. Culkin added that he'd "never seen [Jackson] do anything improper with anybody" and that he was shocked the prosecution would put on witnesses who said Jackson molested him without even asking Culkin if it were true. The witnesses, three ex-employees at Neverland Ranch who testified that they'd seen Jackson molest these young men, were Ralph Chacon, Kassim Abdool, and Adrian McManus. These three belonged to a group of five ex-employees who had sued Michael Jackson for wrongful termination in 1995. Jackson, counterclaiming that they had stolen property and sold some of it to tabloids, won the suit and was awarded $60,000 in damages; the ex-employees were fined for lying in court and were ordered to pay $1.4 million for Jackson's legal fees.
Jason Francia, the son of a former Neverland maid, was the only alleged prior victim to testify. Francia described three times he had been playing with Jackson: they were tickling each other, and Jackson ended up tickling Francia's "little private region" outside of his clothes for a few minutes each time, with Francia laughing all the while. Francia testified that the third time, Jackson had reached up the leg of Francia's shorts and touched his testicles. Francia claimed he needed five years of therapy because of the ordeal. He received settlement money from Jackson, and testified that he thought he deserved even more. Francia also admitted that he and his mother had sold stories of his alleged inappropriate tickling to the tabloids. When Jason Francia originally talked to the police after the 1993 allegations, he told them he had never been touched inappropriately. He made that claim only after extensive police questioning in which they repeatedly called Jackson a "molester" and told Jason that Macaulay Culkin was being molested right then and Jason could put a stop to it if he confessed. Francia also testified that Jackson gave him money after each tickling incident, mirroring something Francia said in his original police interview: that Jackson would give him money each time he finished reading a book or got an 'A'.
The final alleged victim was Jordan Chandler, who received a settlement from Jackson in the 1993 case. Ralph Chacon, a former security guard at Neverland Ranch, testified that he had watched through a window as Jackson performed oral sex on Chandler in the showers of a rec room. Chacon testified that he did not report the incident to police because he thought he would not be believed.
Adrian McManus, a maid who had previously worked at Neverland, also testified that she'd seen Chandler and Jackson kiss on the mouth and Jackson put his hand on the boy's crotch. McManus admitted that she had previously told attorneys, under oath, that she had never seen any molestation. McManus claimed that she lied because she feared Jackson would report her to her superiors if she told police about the incident.
During cross examination, Jackson's defense attorney questioned the credibility of both Chacon and McManus. Attorney Tom Mesereau noted that both former Neverland employees had been a part of a lawsuit against Michael Jackson filed in the mid-1990s. The employees lost the lawsuit, and were ordered to pay Jackson's legal fees as well as tens of thousands of dollars for stealing property from Michael Jackson. Mesereau accused McManus and Chandler of attempting to "get even" with Jackson for the failed suit.
Jordan Chandler, who was 25 at the time of the trial, chose to leave the country rather than testify, and the only person in his family who appeared for questioning was his mother, June. She denied having seen any molestation, but talked about Jordan and Michael sleeping in the same room on numerous occasions, explaining that she initially didn't want them to, but was persuaded by Jackson, who had cried and been hurt that she didn't trust him. She testified about Jackson buying all kinds of gifts for the family, the trips they'd been on together, and how fun it was to be part of Jackson's world. She said she'd been concerned that her son was starting to dress like Jackson and wanting to spend all his time with him. When asked about the lawsuits that resulted from her family's involvement with Michael Jackson, June Chandler made the distinction that even though she was listed as a plaintiff and received settlement money, it was not she who sued Jackson, but rather Jordan and his father Evan who did so. She claimed not to recall that Jackson had counter sued for extortion, or that her second husband, Dave Schwartz, had sued Jackson, or that Evan Chandler had sued Jackson a second time. Thomas Mesereau said in a Harvard lecture later that year, "the prosecutors tried to get [Jordan] to show up, and he wouldn't. If he had, I had witnesses who were going to come in and say he told them it never happened and that he would never talk to his parents again for what they made him say. It turned out he'd gone into court and got legal emancipation from his parents." June Chandler testified that she had not spoken to her son Jordan in 11 years, since 1994.
The prosecution sought to have Jackson's financial records exposed in the trial. They claimed that Jackson was a "spendaholic" who was, from 1999 to 2001, spending $35 million a year while earning $11 million to $12 million a year, and as a result was on the brink of bankruptcy. They argued that this could have been a motive for Jackson to resort to the alleged conspiracy to control the public relations damage of the Bashir documentary, and thus control the resulting financial damage. Based on motions filed by Sanger, the judge ruled that the prosecution could subpoena the financial records, but that they would only be opened in the trial after he heard testimony that they are relevant. Despite these allegations, according to Forbes, Jackson was still making as much as $75 million a year from his publishing partnership with Sony.
Prosecution witnesses' credibility
Not only was the credibility of the main accuser, his mother, and entire family in question, but also that of the many witnesses called to testify in the trial. Prosecution witness Chris Carter, who had been Jackson's bodyguard from August 2002 through August 2003, was arrested in Las Vegas on February 19, 2005, after police searched his mother's house and found a handgun. In addition, he had been accused of robbing a RadioShack in October 2003, a Subway sandwich shop in August 2004, a KB Toys store in January 2005, and a Jack in the Box restaurant in February 2005. He refused to testify. Adrian McManus, a former maid in Neverland and one of the "Neverland Five" who lost their suit against Jackson, was convicted of stealing a sketch of Elvis Presley made by Jackson and selling it to a tabloid for $30,000. Philippe Lamarque, a potential witness who ultimately did not testify, was the host of a porn site called "Virtual Sin." Tapes of a conversation he had with Paul Baressi revealed that for $100,000, Lamarque would say he saw Jackson touch Macaulay Culkin's crotch outside of his shorts, but for $500,000, the hand would go inside the shorts. Journalist Matt Taibbi wrote:
The trial featured perhaps the most compromised collection of prosecution witnesses ever assembled in an American criminal case...the chief drama of the trial quickly turned into a race to see if the DA could manage to put all of his witnesses on the stand without getting any of them removed from the courthouse in manacles.
At approximately 2:25 pm PDT (21:25 UTC) on June 13, 2005, the jury of the Superior Court of the State of California, held in and for the County of Santa Barbara, determined that Jackson was not guilty on all 10 felony and all 4 misdemeanor charges.
- January 31 – Jury selection begins.
- February 24 – Jurors and alternates seated.
- February 28, March 1 – Opening statements.
- March 1 – Prosecution testimony begins.
- May 4 – Prosecution rests.
- May 5 – Defense testimony begins.
- May 25 – Defense rests/prosecution rebuttal begins.
- May 27 – Prosecution rebuttal ends/defense offers no rebuttal.
- June 1 – Jury gets instructions.
- June 2, June 3 – Closing arguments.
- June 13 – Verdict delivered.
As of April 15, 2005, all weekdays from February 28, 2005 were court days, except:
- March 31 – Cesar Chavez Day (official state holiday in California)
- April 6 – funeral of Johnnie Cochran
- May 30 – Memorial Day
A few court days were without jury and without Jackson. On these days motions were discussed and ruled about. These were on March 11 and 18, and the first part of March 28.
There were also several days in which Michael Jackson was unable to attend. These are:
- February 15 – Questioning of potential jurors was postponed until February 22, after Jackson was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.
- March 21 – Court was delayed for 45 minutes, after Jackson showed up late again complaining of back trouble. After meeting with attorneys and the doctor, Melville resumed the court into session without threatening to revoke Jackson's bail.
Allegations of media bias against Jackson
In 2010, Charles Thomson wrote a piece for The Huffington Post, "One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History", in which he detailed the story, as he saw it, of why "the trial that was relayed to us didn't even resemble the trial that was going on inside the courtroom." Luka Neskovic also wrote an article for The Huffington Post, "How The Media Shattered The Man in the Mirror" in which he said, "...Except for this trial was declared a "trial of the century" and displayed media at their worst. Sensationalism, exclusivity, negativity, excentricism, chaos, and hysteria were some of the features. After all, that was the thing that interested them and us the most (and unfortunately there are few who do not fit into stated majority)." During the trial, Matt Drudge accused the media of largely ignoring testimony and evidence that exonerated Jackson and said, "Out here...Michael Jackson is being literally crucified...I think if you did a pulse poll, of people listening to these local talk shows, they would say 95% that Michael Jackson did all this...because it's based on the coverage." Court TV hired tabloid journalist Diane Dimond to cover the trial even though Dimond had previously been sued by Jackson and evaded the suit with the help of prosecutor Sneddon.
After the trial, Michael Jackson moved to Bahrain, and later to Ireland. The Neverland Ranch, which he said had been despoiled by law enforcement searches, was closed. Jackson returned to Southern California in 2009 where he died. In 2011, Universal Pictures made the documentary Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon about Jacksons life and accusations. The documentary was later made available on Netflix. Shows like True Crime with Aphrodite Jones (2010) and The Jury Speaks (2017) have both covered the trial with some of the jury.
In May 2013, choreographer Wade Robson, who had testified in the trial in defense of Jackson, said in an interview with the Today show's Matt Lauer that from the age of seven to around 14 Jackson "performed sexual acts on me and forced me to perform sexual acts on him". Tabloid journalism claimed that during Jackson's trial, Jackson's former housekeeper Blanca Francia testified that she had witnessed Jackson showering with Robson when Robson was 8 or 9 years old, which Robson denied. In May 2013, Francia agreed to testify at Robson's lawsuit against Jackson at Robson's request.
In August 2014 James Safechuck's lawyers filed claims against Jackson's estate that Jackson began sexually abusing Safechuck when he was 10 years old. Safechuck alleged that Jackson sexually abused him over 100 times in a 4-year period. In July 2017, Judge Beckloff ruled against Safechuck's case.
The British broadcaster Channel 4 commissioned a four-hour documentary film about the allegations, Leaving Neverland. It is set to premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in January 2019, with television broadcasts later in the year. It features the stories of Robson and Safechuck, who claim they were abused by Jackson as children. The Jackson estate denounced the documentary as "yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson".
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Police and courts
- Applicable sections of California Penal Code:
- count 1, overt acts 1–28: 182(a)(1) – conspiracy, involving unlawful controlling, withholding, concealing, enticing, and threatening the accuser, his mother, his sister, and his brother, to commit:
- count 2–6: 288(a) – lewd act upon a child: four times plus one attempt (664): two times (counts 2 and 3) reported by the accuser, two times (counts 4 and 5) witnessed by his brother, while the accuser slept, and an attempt to have the accuser perform a non-penetrative sexual act on Jackson (count 6). 288(a) should not be confused with 288a.
- counts 7–10: 222 – administering alcohol to enable and assist oneself to do this (four times); in June 2005 Melville ruled that alternatively the jury can consider the lesser charge of just supplying alcohol to the accuser.
- Evidence Code 1108 – allowing in a sexual offense trial, evidence that the defendant has committed another sexual offense, as evidence of a person's character or a trait of his or her character
- Santa Barbara Sheriff Press Releases on the case
- Felony complaint, Dec 2003
- Tom Sneddon vendetta theory: Archive of a site investigating evidence against Santa Barbara DA T. Sneddon, alleging malicious prosecution
- DCFS memo