ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Group of People: (Chanting in unison) Innocent. Innocent. Innocent.
BLOCK: The chant of `Innocent' from a crowd outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, today, where pop star Michael Jackson was acquitted of all 10 counts in his child molestation 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, dated June 13th, 2005, foreperson number 80.
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, dated June 13th, 2005...
BLOCK: It took seven days for the jury to reach its verdict after a 14-week trial. Michael Jackson left the courthouse without comment. Afterwards, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon insisted the prosecution did the right thing in pursuing the case.
Mr. TOM SNEDDON (District Attorney, Santa Barbara County): When a victim comes in and the victim tells you they've been victimized and you believe that and you believe that the evidence supports that, you don't look at their pedigree; we look at what we think is what's right. You do the right things for the right reasons. If it doesn't work out, that's why we have a jury system. But we did the right thing for the right reasons.
BLOCK: NPR's Luke Burbank joins us from outside the courthouse.
And, Luke, this was a clean sweep for Michael Jackson and an utter defeat for the prosecutors here.
LUKE BURBANK reporting:
It really was, Melissa. And this has been a long-running battle between the Jackson camp and Tom Sneddon, the Santa Barbara County prosecutor. He has brought other charges against Jackson, which have all ultimately have been settled out of court, charges of child molestation. And this was really seen as Tom Sneddon's best case against Jackson, and it was resoundingly defeated; Jackson found not guilty unanimously on all 10 counts. So this is really a big victory for the Jackson camp.
BLOCK: Luke, the members of the jury held a news conference after the verdict was reached, and it became abundantly clear that they did not believe the alleged victim's family, certainly not his mother. They had very harsh things to say about the mother's testimony.
BURBANK: Yeah. One of the female jurors said that `What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen?' and `that' she was speaking about was a child sleeping in bed with anyone, she said, not just Michael Jackson.
But the jury, as you said, Melissa, clearly did not buy the story from the accuser's family. And, of course, that was the goal all along from Jackson's attorney, Thomas Mesereau, to undermine the credibility of this accuser and his family. And based on what the jury had to say after their verdict, it seemed like he did a very successful job with that.
BLOCK: You know, Luke, there was such a carnival atmosphere to a lot of this trial. We'll remember Michael Jackson dancing on the top of his SUV when he was arraigned and coming in at one point in his pajamas to court. It bears repeating that these were very serious charges against him. He was accused of molesting a child.
BURBANK: And that was sometimes lost here, Melissa, because it was, as you said, such a sort of circus atmosphere. People were playing Michael Jackson music from little radios around the clock and sort of directing their animus at the media. And there was so much going on that it was easy to forget that there were very serious charges here, charges that could have put Michael Jackson in prison for over 20 years if he was convicted.
But when the final verdicts did come back, I can tell you the courtroom was a very somber place. Even though there were a lot of Michael Jackson fans in the courtroom, they had been admonished by the bailiffs to keep quiet and no gasping, no, you know, making any sort of noise when the verdicts came in. And everybody sat very, very still except Michael Jackson, who eventually started reaching for tissues to dab his eyes as he started to cry towards the very end as he realized he was going to be found not guilty on all 10 counts.
BLOCK: Luke, thanks very much.
BURBANK: You're welcome, Melissa.
BLOCK: NPR's Luke Burbank, talking with us from outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, California.
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