Analysts Divided Over Verdict

Wendy Murphy, Trent Copeland and Mickey Sherman CBS/The Early Show

When it comes to Michael Jackson, the big question is why is he a free man?

After closely following the case from start to finish, defense attorney Trent Copeland tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm he was a little surprised at the verdict - nine of the jurors are parents, eight of them are women- but reasonable doubt existed in every corner of the case.

"I really think there was a lot of evidence that suggested this was a family that could not be believed," Copeland says. He notes it was clear that when the mother took the stand it was almost as if Michael Jackson's chief lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., became a different lawyer.

"The only time he objected was the prosecutors wouldn't let her finish sentences, because he wanted her to ramble on, because she'd undermine the case." Copeland explains, "Most people would have considered the conventional wisdom would have been back off on the child. Be a little careful with him. He's a young victim, cancer survivor. He labeled him, his siblings and the family, a family of grifters. He went after each and every one of these people with the same vigor that he went after the mother. So this was a very difficult strategy, but it clearly, obviously worked."

And so one of the strengths of the prosecution turned out to be its Achilles heel, Copeland says. Not only did the jury believe that the mother lied, they also believed she had created a culture of deceit in her family.

It was more of a personal vendetta, according to Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine, who spoke with co-anchor Julie Chen about the prosecution, and CBS News analyst and defense attorney Mickey Sherman agrees.

District attorney Tom Sneddon, who first pursued Jackson a decade ago, was overzealous in his prosecution, Sherman says. "He had a vendetta here. One-hunded search warrants. There's no way to label that other than a mission of God. Tom Sneddon was there when they knocked the door down. You don't do that. There's something wrong there. This was way far out of the realm what a normal prosecutor does. It bit him in the back side," Sherman says.

But having been a prosecutor, CBS News legal analyst Wendy Murphy says she was in shock to learn that the jury could not find Michael Jackson guilty on at least one count of molestation.

She says, "I've prosecuted so many of these cases, sometimes with nothing more than the word of a child and that's enough to sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, there was so much more."

Besides the child's testimony, Murphy cites corroborative evidence and notes the only thing that got the pop star off is his celebrity status.

She explains, "The thing that disturbs me the most was porn, next to the Vaseline, next to the bed where Jackson admitted to sleeping with children and one of his own witnesses said 365 nights. I just don't know what we can say now. The message it's sending goes, if this case wasn't strong enough, I don't know what is. I really think it's the celebrity factor, not the evidence. I don't think the jurors even understand how influenced they were by who Michael Jackson is."

But Sherman disagrees. Not only, as the jury pointed out Monday night, did it decide not to treat Jackson as a celebrity, but it also was successful at focusing on the particular case and the evidence presented.

Sherman explains, "They actually agreed and they said in public statements since then, that many think he probably has molested children in the past. That the acts were inappropriate, but they were able to keep their focus on deciding whether Michael Jackson committed these specific crimes and not whether or not he was a strange, weird guy, not whether or not he'd done in it the past, but did he commit these crimes. This is not opening the floodgates for more sexual harassment or child molestation around the country. This jury said that this evidence wasn't enough. As juror No.10 said, we expected better evidence. You can be convicted on one child's testimony, but that child has to be credible. And that was missing here."

Once the jurors questioned the family's credibility, "everything went down the tubes," he says.
  • Tatiana Morales

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