Jury Acquits Michael Jackson

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A jury in Central California city of Santa Maria acquitted pop superstar Michael Jackson of all 10 charges leveled against him. CBS legal news analyst Trent Copeland offers a closer look at the verdict.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya. Ed Gordon is away.

(Soundbite of Michael Jackson trial)

Unidentified Woman: We the jury in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of conspiracy as charged in count one of the indictment.

Count two verdict: We the jury in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a...

Count three verdict: We the jury in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a...

Count four verdict: We find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act...

Count five verdict: ...not guilty of a lewd act upon a minor child...

Count eight verdict: ...not guilty of administering an intoxicating agent to a...

Count nine verdict: ...not guilty of administering an intoxicating...

Count 10 verdict: ...not guilty of administering...

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Woman: ...an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony as charged in...

CHIDEYA: Today Michael Jackson is a free man. Supporters outside the courtroom were overjoyed. Yesterday a jury in Santa Maria, California, found the pop star not guilty on all 10 counts. He faced charges ranging from child molestation and conspiracy to falsely imprisoning the accuser's family at his Neverland Ranch. The jury heard from 140 witnesses. It deliberated for nearly 30 hours before reaching a verdict.

Joining us now is trial attorney and CBS legal news analyst Trent Copeland.

Trent, what was Jackson's reaction when the verdict was read?

Mr. TRENT COPELAND (CBS News Legal Analyst): Well, you know, he was very stoic, Farai, you know, as he has been for the last literally several weeks of this trial. You know, we've watched Michael Jackson deteriorate over the course of this trial, you know, recalling the first day that Michael Jackson was advised of the charges and came in for his arraignment, you know, he jumped on top of an SUV. This is a very different Michael Jackson. You know, you would have expected him to be somewhat jubilant and we didn't get that. You know, we got a very subdued, low-key Michael Jackson, and I think in a large part that has to do with a lot of the stress as a result of, you know, being involved in this trial for Michael Jackson.

CHIDEYA: The prosecutors haven't said very much about whether or not they regret bringing this case. I guess that's a tough thing for a prosecutor to face those questions, but do you, as a legal analyst, think that this case should have been brought?

Mr. COPELAND: Well, you know, look, Tom Sneddon, when he was interviewed following the verdict being announced, indicated that he didn't have regrets in terms of bringing the case, but he might have learned some very difficult lessons along the way.

Now you know, I really do think that this was in large part, Farai, a faith-based prosecution. I think it was a prosecution that was based, really, on the statements of these witnesses, this family, because remember, you know, the lead investigator in this case testified on the stand that from the time they interviewed this family until the time they raided Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, they didn't do any investigation. So they relied almost exclusively on the word of this family when they initiated the investigation and brought these charges against Michael Jackson. I think the problem was if they had done some independent investigation and tried to corroborate this family's story, they would have discovered about this JC Penney lawsuit where the mother, you know, allegedly lied in that lawsuit. They would have discovered that she committed welfare fraud. They would have discovered that she had lied and perjured herself in the deposition, in the judicial proceeding. They would have found some of the warts, I think, that really caused this prosecution to be derailed.

So you know, in the end, this may have been certainly a valid investigation. These prosecutors didn't go looking for this case. This case came to them. The problem was when the case came to them, they did not undertake the necessary evaluation and investigation to shore up whether or not this family could be believed.

CHIDEYA: Trent, we're out of time, but one last question, quickly: Will there be a civil case?

Mr. COPELAND: Don't think so. You know, Thomas Mesereau has indicated this morning and in statements to the press that he'll be representing Michael Jackson if there's a civil case. So I think any civil lawyer will be hard-pressed to come up against Thomas Mesereau, given the facts of this criminal trial.

CHIDEYA: Thanks for joining us.

Trent Copeland is a trial attorney and legal news analyst for CBS.

Mr. COPELAND: OK.

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