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Michael Jackson Verdict Read
Aired June 13, 2005 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're told the jury is coming in, Ted Rowlands. The members of the jury, eight women and four men. They've been sitting over these past 14 weeks. Within a minute or so, they should be walking in, and shortly thereafter, we presumably will hear the voice of Judge Rodney Melville. Give us some of the preparations for the actual reading of these verdicts, 10 specific counts against Michael Jackson, some more serious, clearly, than others, but all of them very serious to begin with? Ted, walk us through this process that's about to happen, for viewers who are just tuning in right now, at the top of the hour. It's 5:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 2:00 p.m. on the West Coast.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the judge will walk into the courtroom, all will rise, as is typical, and once court is in session, presumably the judge will say, "Have you reached a verdict" and the answer from the foreperson, number two, an Hispanic male, will say, "Yes, we have, your honor."
At that moment the verdict forms will be handed over via bailiff to Lorna Frye (ph), this is the clerk who sits on the left side of the judge. The jury is on the right and then she will begin with count one, the conspiracy count, then go through the alleged molestation counts, the lewd acts on a child, the attempted lewd acts and then the final four will be the alcohol counts.
Count two will be the molestation as alleged by the victim. Whether he is guilty or not guilty on the conspiracy, that will be the big one, if he is found guilty on count two and that will be presumably coming within the next minute. The jury is filing in as we speak and we are waiting and listening to see if this audio feed kicks in. And if not we do have someone in a listening room who is hearing it in real time who will tell us via the radio what the verdicts are as they come in.
BLITZER: And just to review, Jeffrey Toobin, count one is conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. Once that verdict is reached, as announced on count one, I presume we will get a pretty good sense which direction this jury is headed.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The big one to listen for is count two. Count two is probably the strongest molestation count and if he is convicted of that, that changes Michael Jackson's life forever and that is the count that will keep him in prison for quite a few years.
BLITZER: So well be listening to one and two, all of these ten verdicts, and they will go through, Ted, one by one by one all of the verdicts and then they will poll the jurors after that, is that how it works?
ROWLANDS: The attorneys will be given the option, do you want the jurors polled individually. Most likely, whoever loses will say, yes, they do want that to take place and the jurors will one by one get up and say yes, indeed, that is how I voted in this process.
On the last four alcohol chargers, they also have a lesser to consider. They can find him not guilty of providing alcohol to molest but guilty of providing alcohol, which is a misdemeanor charge, meaning Jackson would most likely still be out on bail. Okay.
The jury is coming in, I am being told. The jury is now coming in. The judge wanted the alternates to be here as well. Four men and four women that sat through the trial. The alternates are coming in with the twelve panelists and presumably, now, within the minute, we should start to hear this audio feed from inside the courtroom.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, these eight women and four men, the jury, and the alternate - there was one black alternate but not blacks on the jury. Did anyone make a big issue out of the fact that there were no blacks on the jury?
TOOBIN: Well, Jesse Jackson who has been a somewhat, sometime spokesman for Michael Jackson has raised that issue. Interestingly, if one juror had left, the African American alternate I believe was alternate number one, so he would have joined the jury, but no jurors left, so it is a jury without any African Americans.
In this area, that is not all that unusual. This is less than two percent African American, this part of Santa Barbara County. This is a city of 70,000 people, very few African Americans live there. Many Hispanics live there but not many African Americans, so it is not all that out of ordinary to have a jury without African Americans.
BLITZER: Is there a heavy police presence, more robust, shall we say, Ted, today than has been the case over these many weeks of this trial?
ROWLANDS: Wolf, I have just been told the jury is seated and they are now awaiting for Judge Rodney Melville to enter the courtroom and at that moment, we should be able to hear this audio feed coming through the jury, again, is seated. Now waiting for the judge to walk into the courtroom to start the proceedings.
BLITZER: Alright. We will await and hopefully that audio signal will work. We will be able to hear the voice from Judge Rodney Melville to give that last bit of instruction as the jury verdict is read to us, to the entire world. All those people watching and listening right now.
I was asking if the police presence is a lot heavier today, Ted, is a lot heavier than it is on a normal day of this trial.
ROWLANDS: The judge is on the bench. Wolf, the judge is on the bench, the judge is on the bench.
BLITZER: All right.
ROWLANDS: And we are now waiting for this feed. If it doesn't come through, we have somebody who is monitoring this and they're telling us via radio that the judge is on the bench and the feed should be coming any minute. I just heard something in my ear click. I'm assuming that that may be the beginning of this audio feed.
BLITZER: Well, we're letting our viewers know exactly what we know and hopefully they will get the audio feed exactly as we get it, and we're not getting it yet, so maybe the court has not yet flipped that switch, so that we can hear the voice of the judge.
Ted, tell us what your producers on the scene are telling you.
ROWLANDS: They're telling us that the judge is on the bench. He has got a radio and the verdict has not been handed toed judge. The judge will look over the verdict forms and make sure that everything is in order. And then the judge will hand the verdict forms to his left so that they could be read by the court clerk, Lorna Frye (ph), who sits to the judge's left. The judge's left as you are facing him from the courtroom.
We have been told that the judge -- has the verdicts in hand and is looking them over right now, but obviously we are not hearing the audio feed coming from inside the courtroom.
However, we will get the verdicts as they are read via two-way radio and I will pass along the verdicts one by one with each count as we get them over the radio.
BLITZER: All right. We are going to stand by and hopefully within the next few seconds, we will begin to hear the voice of the clerk and/or the judge as the verdicts in the Michael Jackson are read inside this courthouse in Santa Maria, California. These are crowds that have gathered outside the courthouse getting ready. They're anxious to hear as well whether or not Michael Jackson will be convicted or acquitted in this child molestation trial.
It has been 14 weeks in the making. The jury has met for seven days, 32 hours, if you're counting, of actual deliberation before reaching the verdict. About 95 or so minutes ago when we received word from the court that the jury has reached a verdict and would be announced within 60 minutes but it's actually taken a little bit more than an hour and a half given it is long ride from Neverland to the courthouse. It took a little bit longer than presumably the judge had wanted. But all is well and ends well in this particular regard, not unnecessarily.
Jeffrey Toobin, a big deal that it's 30 minutes later than the judge may have wanted.
TOOBIN: This has worked fairly smoothly in getting them there. But so far the audio system either hasn't been turned on or it's not working. BLITZER: Any new word yet you're getting yet on what's going on, Ted?
ROWLANDS: No, Wolf, I'm looking at Peter Ornstein, our producer, and he has both radios pressed up against his ear waiting for an update. There are ten separate counts so there are a lot of forms that the judge will have to look through before he hands them over to the clerk. Presumably the judge is still checking those out.
Again, I just heard an attempt, it sounded like, for the audio feed to kick in. however, nothing at this point. We're still waiting word. What's that? The judge is still reading the verdicts, I'm being told. The judge is still reading over the verdict forms. And the courtroom, I'm being told, is absolutely silent which mirrors what is happening outside the courthouse. It is absolutely silent out here as everybody waits for word to see which way the jury has decided in terms of Michael Jackson's fate.
The judge, when he's finished looking at the verdicts, will hand them to the clerk and at that point we'll either get the feed or pass them along to you via radio real time. We have someone who has a visual and has audio from a feed room, which is around the back side of the courthouse and that individual will pass it along to us over the radio, if need be.
BLITZER: How extraordinary, Jeffrey, is the way that this judge, Judge Rodney Melville, has orchestrated the release of the information in the verdict. How unusual is this, what we're seeing? Obviously this a high-profile celebrity case, but still?
TOOBIN: I have never seen a judge allow a partial audio broadcast. This is without precedent. It was designed to avoid the confusion that we had in the Martha Stewart case where there was no audio feed and people came running out of the courtroom with signals that some were right and some were wrong. The idea is give everyone the information at the same time, avoid that confusion and we'll see if that works.
BLITZER: Bob Shapiro, if you're still waiting and still can hear us, Bob Shapiro, the criminal defense attorney who represented O.J. Simpson in his trial 10 years ago, how extraordinary is this procedure that Judge Melville has worked out?
ROBERT SHAPIRO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's totally unique. And as Jeff pointed out, in these high-profile cases, one thing you always hear, and that is from the prosecutors that the cases aren't going to be tried any differently and the judges would like you to have that same impression. Nothing could be further from the truth. These cases have their own unique attributes. Everybody views them differently. And I think the judge has made a good decision here in releasing the verdicts. I actually would have preferred to have those verdicts read with a camera in the courtroom on the clerk.
BLITZER: We can assume, Bob Shapiro, correct me if I'm wrong, that there's no hung jury. They have reached a verdict in all 10 counts. SHAPIRO: It's not, "We can assume." We know. They have announced that they have reached a verdict. They buzzed the judge. And they have one buzz if they have a verdict, two buzzes if they have a question. So clearly, if the reports have been accurate, there was one buzz and a verdict will be read on each and every count.
TOOBIN: One thing that was very unusual about this jury deliberation is that the questions that the jury had, and there were some questions and the read backs that took place, were not released to the public. I think that's a very disturbing development in those of you us who believe in public trials. And this is the first trial I have heard of where jury questions were not released to the public.
BLITZER: Would they be released after the verdicts were announced?
TOOBIN: Perhaps. Presumably. But since they have never not been announced before, I don't know what procedure the judge plans to use. But again, I think it's an example on how these high profile trials develop their own codes, their own laws, and judges have been moving more and more toward restricting them.
BLITZER: You've tried a lot of cases in California, how extraordinary is this the fact that we were not told what these questions were about, Shapiro?
SHAPIRO: I don't find it that extraordinary at all. Generally, what happens when the jury has a question, the judge calls both lawyers in and they read the question. It may be can you give us a better definition. Usually the response is follow the instructions that you've already been given. It's a time for people to try to be fair, but it is also a give and take session. And so those kinds of things generally are off the record. I don't see any problem with that. If there's a read back, they can announce what was read back and I agree with Jeff on that issue.
BLITZER: And Bob Shapiro, we're told by Ted Rowlands and our producers on the ground who are inside the courtroom listening to what's going on as we await the audio from the court clerk and from the judge on the verdict, ten counts involving this child molestation trial against Michael Jackson.
As the judge is now going through the paperwork, reading the verdict, studying them, does he have any discretion, let's say he has a question and is confused, could he tell the jury, you know what, I want to take a break and let's review something, or must he go forward now, Bob Shapiro and have the verdicts announced?
SHAPIRO: Wolf, that's a very, very good question. If there are inaccuracies or if there are clear mistakes in the verdict form, or if there are special allegations that the jurors have to render a decision on and they haven't filled out the verdict forms properly, he will instruct the jury to go back and do them properly. However, he cannot change anything that this jury has done at this point in time. If there is a conviction, he could do it later. TOOBIN: Another unusual aspect of that deliberation, is that the judge has not released the exact verdict form that the jury is filling out. Again, that's usually the case in high profile trials where there's interest in the verdict form, for reasons that are frankly inexplicable to me, this judge has not released the precise form that the jury will be checking the boxes in, so we don't know precisely how the verdict will be announced.
BLITZER: Bob Shapiro, here we go, here's the audio. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superior Court of the State of California for the county of Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Division. The people of the State of California, plaintiff, versus Michael Joe Jackson, defendant, case number 1133603, count one verdict, "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, foreperson number 80.
Count three 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 three of the indictment." Dated June 13th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count four verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty upon a lewd acts of a minor child as charged in count four of the indictment." Dated June 10th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count five verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find of defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a minor child as charged in count five of the indictment." Dated June 10th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count six verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a minor child as charged in count six of the indictment." Dated June 13th, 2005, foreperson number 80.
Count seven verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony as charged in count seven of the indictment." Dated June 13th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count seven verdict, lesser offense, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of providing alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21, a lesser included offence that of that charge in count seven of the indictment." Dated June 13th, 2005, foreperson number 80.
Count eight verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find of the defendant not guilty of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony as charged in count eight of the indictment." Dated June 13th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count eight verdict, lesser offense, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of providing alcoholic beverages to persons under the any of 21, a lesser included offense that charged in count eight of the indictment." Dated June 13th, 2005, foreperson number 80.
Count nine verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony as charged in count nine of the indictment." Dated June 10th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
"Count nine verdict, lesser offense, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant of not guilty of providing alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21, a lesser included offense of that charge in count nine of the indictment." Dated June 10th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count 10, verdict, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony as charged in count 10 of the indictment." Dated June 10th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
Count 10 verdict, lesser offense, "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant not guilty of providing alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21, a lesser included offense of that charge in count 10 of the indictment." Dated June 10th, 2005 foreperson number 80.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That completes the reading of the verdict.
BLITZER: And there it is. All 10 counts. Not guilty on all 10 counts. Michael Jackson will be walking out of this courtroom a free man, not guilty on the serious, the more serious charges, the lesser charges, administering alcohol, a misdemeanor, a slam dunk against the prosecution. Jeffrey Toobin, I think it's fair to say a lot of people are going to be very, very surprised.
TOOBIN: A lot of people are going to be surprised and you don't need a law degree to understand this verdict. It is an absolute and complete victory for Michael Jackson, utter humiliation and defeat for Thomas Sneddon, the district attorney, who has been pursuing Michael Jackson for more than a decade, who brought a case. That was not -- it was not one that this jury bought at all. And this one is over.
BLITZER: We have said before the verdict that California juries are unpredictable, Bob, Shapiro, and in this particular case a lot of people thought Michael Jackson would be convicted at least on the misdemeanors. A lot of people thought he would be convicted on the more series felony accounts, the sexual assault, if you will. Give us your immediate reaction.
SHAPIRO: Well, first, the jury did not come up with a compromised verdict, which a lot of people would suspect if they just wanted to give the prosecution something. The jury clearly has told the prosecution this was a case you probably should not have brought.
The little boy's credibility was probably nonexistent to this jury. Coupled with the mother who offered testimony that bordered on the bizarre. That this is a case that they didn't want to show guilt by association. They did follow the judge's instructions clearly on the prior bad acts by not using that as a way to show he committed this particular crime and my hope is that the public accepts this verdict. This is a jury in a very, very conservative part of California. A jury that by all markings, look like a pro prosecution jury. And if this jury had no doubt, none of us should have any doubt whatsoever.
BLITZER: You personally, though, are pretty surprised, Bob Shapiro, you thought this was perhaps going to go the other way.
SHAPIRO: I certainly did. And I didn't think Michael would be singing "Beat It." Now he will be doing the moonwalk.
BLITZER: He's not only going to be doing the moonwalk. He's going to be coming out -- he might jump on top -- All of a sudden, his health, I suspect, Jeffrey Toobin, is going to get a lot better very quickly. Ted Rowlands, let's bring you in. You've been covering this trial from day one. We see a lot of people cheering. A lot of happy Jackson fans out there.
Set the scene for us.
ROWLANDS: Well, when the first verdict was read they cheered and then immediately they quieted down to hear the rest. And it went through all ten. Clearly, now, it's pandemonium out here among the crowd members. They are jubilant. Inside the courtroom we understand from our producer that Michael Jackson dabbed his eyes with Kleenex during the reading of the verdict and now you can see the SUVs are pulling up. And Michael Jackson will be getting inside one of those vehicles and heading to whenever he wants. He is not guilty and has to answer to nobody. He has been found unanimously not guilty by this jury and this crowd that has gathered outside could not be more pleased. Ninety percent of them Jackson supporters.
BLITZER: Are the arrangements -- Is there a microphone set up outside the courthouse there where you are Ted Rowlands for if Michael Jackson wants to make a statement to his fans, if his attorneys want to speak, if the prosecution wants to speak or if the jury wants to speak, we're standing by for all of that if it happens. What's the arrangement that's been worked out?
ROWLANDS: I have been given permission from the court to set up interview rooms inside the courthouse for defense lawyers, prosecutors, Michael Jackson and jury members. It will be up to those individuals whether or not they want to make a statement. We were would be told that Michael Jackson would be at least reading a statement. We will have to see whether or not that comes to fruition. The vans are out here. He could leave at any minute. We will not be able to stick a microphone out to get any audio from Jackson, impromptu audio as he is leaving because sheriff's deputies have lined the space between the media and the vans. We will not, most definitely, be able to get to Michael Jackson. Security is extremely high here. But we do expect a statement from Michael Jackson in this prearranged scenario. Whether or not he's up to it or wants to do it at this time, we'll have to wait here and see. But everything is in place for all of the parties to make statements now here in the next few minutes.
BLITZER: What are you hearing from our producers inside, Ted Rowlands? What's happening right now and just to recap for viewers who may just be tuning in, not guilty all ten counts against Michael Jackson. A clear and decisive, unanimous win for Michael Jackson against these charges. What's happening inside the courtroom right now?
ROWLANDS: Well, we've been told as far as inside the courtroom is only that Michael Jackson dabbed his eyes. We have not gotten another update since then. The judge is now addressing the jurors, thanking them for their service. He has not adjourned court yet. So all the parties are still inside the courtroom listening to Judge Rodney Melville basically button up this case, thank jurors for their service and then will allow everybody to go their separate ways. So right now the judge still holding court saying goodbye to all the parties inside the courtroom.
BLITZER: All right, Ted, I am going to ask you to get some more information what's happening inside. Let me bring Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, back into this. This is clearly everything that Michael Jackson, Thomas Mesereau, his attorney, all the family members and fans wanted, plus.
TOOBIN: Absolutely. And I think at lot of people watching this verdict, especially people who didn't follow the trial very closely, will be tempted to say, look, another crazy California jury acquitting an obviously guilty person. Many people regard that as happening to O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake last year. Whatever you think of those verdicts, this was a very different case.
This was a questionable case. This was a difficult case for the prosecution. I think one issue that the prosecution will really have difficulty answering is why did they bring that count one. Because the count one was a very weak count in and of itself. But it also allowed defense to put forth the conspiracy theory that the jury obviously believed, that the case was orchestrated by the accuser's mother and that the mother put the son up to lying about what happened. If these prosecutors had not charged that conspiracy, the mother would not have even been a witness in this case and it would have just been the accuser testifying and I think the prosecutors would have had a lot better chance of winning.
BLITZER: What happens now, Bob Shapiro? Does Michael Jackson and his attorneys, can they take legal action against the accuser, the accuser's mother, the accuser's supporters right now if they decide they want to keep this issue going?
SHAPIRO: No. They are finished. They are not going to bring any further action whatsoever. They want this thing to go away, to fade-away and not be heard from again. I wanted to just touch on one thing that Jeffrey so accurately pointed out. And that is by bringing up count one as the most serious charge being the first count and allowing ...
BLITZER: Let me just repeat what that count was, conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. As we see people leaving the courtroom where the judge has now dismissed the jury. Go ahead, Bob.
SHAPIRO: The jury clearly would find that that was overreaching. This case never was about extortion. This case was about one issue and one issue only and that is, was this little boy molested or not molested by Michael Jackson? The jury has spoken loud and clear. And it goes back to one thing that I have said in these cases over and over again that the defense lawyers don't win these cases, prosecutors lose them.
BLITZER: When you say prosecutors lose them, give us a specific. What did the prosecutor do wrong in this particular case?
Here is Michael Jackson walking out of the courtroom right now. We see them. There's a little bit of a smile there. I suppose he's as stunned as a lot of other people are. Surrounded by his father and his sister and other family members walking out.
No visible emotion there, Jeffrey. Did you see some visible emotion on his face?
TOOBIN: Not at that moment. He did look stunned and exhausted and much like he has throughout the trial, just drained and physically ill.
BLITZER: And we see his attorney, criminal defense attorney, the white-haired man, Thomas Mesereau, walking out. There's the family. Let's listen in to see if we can hear anything.
BLITZER: He's inside his SUV now. His supporters, his family members hugging each other. Michael Jackson blew a kiss or two to his fans. He could hear the cheering as he was walking out. Thomas Mesereau, his attorney, staying behind together with his legal team. Michael Jackson, not guilty, all 10 counts that were brought against him. He clearly didn't make a statement on this particular occasion, perhaps he will be making a statement once he returns to his Neverland Ranch, another 45 minute or so drive from here.
We will be standing by to hear if Thomas Mesereau, his attorney, will be making a statement and if the prosecution will be making a statement.
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