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Toobin: Jackson courtroom 'like nothing I've ever seen'

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin
CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin

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Michael Jackson arrives at the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, to enter a plea of not guilty to child molestation charges.
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CNN's Heidi Collins talks with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about the addition of Benjamin Brafman to Michael Jackson's defense team.
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On the Scene
Jeffrey Toobin
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SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- After Michael Jackson arrived about 20 minutes late for his arraignment Friday, he received a scolding from the judge and later pleaded not guilty to child molestation charges.

Fans, Jackson family members and media from around the world converged on the town. CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was in the courtroom and spoke with CNN's Miles O'Brien about the atmosphere surrounding Jackson's appearance.

TOOBIN: Even before court began, even before the judge took the bench, there were scenes in that courtroom like nothing I've ever seen before. Early in the morning, really around 6:00 in the morning, the judges -- the court officials -- held a lottery, where 60 of the fans who had waited, some all night, got to go inside, all of them wearing Michael Jackson T-shirts, jackets, hats.

And each time a member of the Jackson family walked into the courtroom, they started applauding, even though the court officials said, you can't do that, as Joseph Jackson, the father, walked in, as Katherine Jackson, his mother, walked in, Tito Jackson, and then finally, Janet Jackson, who rarely makes appearances with her brother, came in. And there were literally people weeping in the courtroom with excitement. It was like the Beatles of the early '60s.

Then, finally, Michael Jackson came in. And there was applause. Again, some of these fans seemed emotionally overwrought. And they sat down. And this was before court began. So it was really quite an extraordinary scene, like nothing I've ever seen in that courtroom. And that's only the beginning of the weirdness of the day.

O'BRIEN: I mean, you start thinking about going down the road here and trying to select a jury, for example. I can't imagine a more challenging jury selection than this one, can you?

TOOBIN: Well, actually, the risk we may be taking is focusing a little too much on this core of fans, who are, I think it's safe to say, fanatical.

I don't think Michael Jackson obsesses most of the American people anymore. He is, to a certain extent, yesterday's news. But there is this core, these several hundred people who showed up at this fairly remote city that we're in in California, to cheer him on. And, how they affect the rest of the jury pool, it could well be negative. It could be that they generate a backlash against him. That's going to be the challenge in determining how to pick a jury in this case.

But we are months away from that. That's for sure.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, who was there in the courtroom today for what can basically be described as a spectacle, I guess. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.


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