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The Michael Jackson Trial

Jackson jurors: Evidence 'just wasn't there'

Pop star acquitted of all charges in molestation case

Jurors, most of whom were identified only by number, address the media after the verdicts.
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Michael Jackson leaves the courtroom acquitted of all counts.

Jurors in the Jackson case field questions on the trial.

CNN's Jeffery Toobin analyzes the Michael Jackson verdict.
Michael Jackson
Crime, Law and Justice

SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- A stoic Michael Jackson walked out of court acquitted by jurors who said they didn't have enough evidence to convict him of molestation charges that could have sent him to prison for years.

Jackson made no comment -- and didn't even smile -- as he left the Santa Maria courthouse after the verdict Monday, surrounded by his parents and siblings.

He did wave and blow kisses to hundreds of supporters, who screamed, hugged one another and threw confetti when they heard the news -- some of them overcome with tears of joy. (Fans react)

Jackson's brother, Jermaine, told CNN's "Larry King Live" his family was "very, very happy."

"Like we always felt from the very beginning and knew, he was one thousand percent innocent," he said. "It takes one person to tell the truth, but it takes many to concoct a lie."

Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy two years ago when they were sleeping alone together in his bed at Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County. (Verdict list)

The jury acquitted Jackson on 10 counts:

  • Four counts of committing a lewd act with a child.
  • One count of attempting to commit a lewd act on a child younger than 14.
  • One count of conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, extortion and child abduction.
  • Four counts of providing alcohol to a minor to facilitate child molestation.
  • Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon, who sat grim-faced as the court clerk read out the verdicts, later told reporters he would accept the decision.

    "In 37 years [as a prosecutor], I've never quarreled with a jury's verdict, and I'm not going to start today," he said.

    Asked if he thought the jury had just acquitted a child molester, Sneddon said, "No comment."

    Jackson's lead defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., told reporters on his way out of the courthouse that "justice was done."

    "The man's innocent. He always was," Mesereau said.

    Jury retrospective

    The jury foreman, Paul Rodriguez, said jurors were "very troubled" that Jackson, by his own admission, had overnight sleepovers with children in his bed.

    But Rodriguez, a 63-year-old retired high school counselor from Santa Maria, said jurors were instructed by the judge to base their verdicts on the facts of the case, not "our beliefs or our own personal thoughts."

    "We would hope ... that he doesn't sleep with children anymore," Rodriguez said on CNN. "He just has to be careful how he conducts himself around children."

    At a post-verdict news conference, jurors said that after more than 32 hours of deliberations over seven days, they all agreed prosecutors had simply not proved their case against the pop star beyond a reasonable doubt.

    At the news conference, jurors were identified only by their seat number in the courtroom.

    "We actually challenged one another in the deliberation room," said Juror No. 1, a 62-year-old man from Santa Maria, later identified as Raymond Hultman. "We challenged the issues, and we came to the decision that pointed to reasonable doubt."

    Later, in an interview on "Larry King Live," Hultman said he believes Jackson "probably has molested boys."

    "I can't believe that this man could sleep in the same bedroom for 365 straight days and not do something more than just watch television and eat popcorn," he said. "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."

    As they deliberated, jurors kept coming back to the "closetful of evidence" supplied by prosecutors during the 14-week trial, but "it was just not enough," said Juror No. 10, a 45-year-old woman from Solvang, not far from Jackson's Neverland Ranch.

    "We expected probably better evidence, something that was a little more convincing. And it just wasn't there," she said.

    Rodriguez said jurors did find credible some of the testimony relating to past child molestation allegations against Jackson, which prosecutors were allowed to introduce to try to prove a pattern of behavior.

    But he said that testimony wasn't enough to overcome the jury's doubts about the facts in current case.

    Juror No. 8, a 42-year-old woman from Lompoc who cried during the reading of the verdict, said the jury's decision was emotional for her because it was "a no-win situation for the [accuser's] family and Michael Jackson."

    "But we had to do what we were instructed to do," she said.

    During the trial, Jackson's defense team attacked the credibility of Jackson's teenage accuser and his family, particularly the boy's mother.

    The jurors, who listened to the mother for more than five days, indicated that they, too, doubted her credibility and were put off by the way she directly addressed jurors and accented her testimony by snapping her fingers.

    "I disliked it intensely," said Juror No. 5, a 79-year-old woman from Santa Maria. "I thought, 'Don't snap your fingers at me, lady.' "

    Juror No. 10 said "you couldn't help but wonder" whether the mother concocted the charges against Jackson and coached her children to lie, as the defense alleged.

    The juror said that as a mother she was also troubled by the fact the accuser's mother allowed her son to sleep alone with Jackson.

    "What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen -- just freely volunteer your child to sleep with someone?" she said.

    As for the testimony of the boy himself, Rodriguez said jurors were troubled by the fact that the youngster's version of events was inconsistent with testimony offered by other members of his family.

    "It was really hard to believe what he was telling us," he said.

    Jurors said they also were troubled by the logic of the prosecution's timeline.

    Prosecutors said the molestation took place about three weeks after Jackson and his associates allegedly launched a conspiracy against the family to enlist their help in damage control efforts after the boy was shown holding hands with the entertainer in an unflattering television documentary.

    Jurors apparently also discounted the cache of sexually explicit material seized from Neverland and presented by prosecutors, who argued the material was used by Jackson to help groom young boys for abuse.

    "Those are adult magazines. Anybody can own them," Rodriguez said. "It doesn't prove the charge."

    Sneddon defends case

    Debra Opri, a Jackson family attorney, said prosecutors made a mistake when "they brought charges against Michael Jackson with the wrong accuser."

    Sneddon defended his decision to proceed with the case, saying prosecutors don't have the luxury of picking the victims they represent.

    "When a victim comes in and the victim tells you they've been victimized, and you believe that and you believe the evidence supports that, you don't look at their pedigree," Sneddon said. "We did the right thing for the right reasons."

    Sneddon said that despite Monday's verdict, he "probably wouldn't" shy away from pursuing new allegations against Jackson if law enforcement had a good case against him.

    "We'd review it like any other case," he said.

    The jury's verdict was read shortly after 2 p.m. (5 p.m. ET), about 90 minutes after jurors informed Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville that they had reached a decision.

    The reading of the verdict was delayed to give Jackson time to drive from Neverland to the courthouse in Santa Maria.

    Jackson looked straight ahead and showed little reaction as he listened to the court clerk go through the not guilty verdicts on all 10 counts. (On the Scene)

    His mother, Katherine, who attended every day of the trial, started to cry as his siblings LaToya, Tito and Randy held her. His father, Joseph, sat with his hands clasped in front of him.

    After Melville told Jackson he was free to go, the entertainer hugged his attorneys before walking out of the courthouse and getting in a black SUV for the return trip to Neverland.

    CNN's Ted Rowlands, Rusty Dornin and Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.

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