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Fans Cheer Jackson Verdict

From the California courthouse to Michael Jackson's old Indiana neighborhood to towns around the world, fans reacted with euphoria at the pop star's exoneration, tossing confetti and chanting "Innocent!" as word spread of the acquittal.

More than 1,200 people had waited outside the courthouse for the verdicts Monday, and screams of joy rang out as the throng heard the news. A female fan released a white dove for each acquittal on child molestation and other charges.

"I'm shaking," said Emily Smith, 24, of London, who was among the few fans in Santa Maria who got courtroom passes to hear the reading of the verdicts. "I believe justice has been done today. I can't tell you how good it feels."

At Neverland, the pop star's storybook estate, hundreds of fans hugged and sobbed as they greeted Jackson's convoy of SUVs with a huge cheer. Scrawled in what appeared to be shaving cream on cars was "Justice. Liberty. We love MJJ."

In Jackson's hometown of Gary, Ind., neighbors and residents walked past the former family homestead to express their support. Renee Tribble carried a sign that read "Framed/Not guilty." Others drove past blaring their horns.

"I knew he didn't do it," said Franklin Reese, who pulled his pickup truck in front of Jackson's one-time home, blaring the entertainer's song "Beat It" from the stereo.

Tony Retic, 61, who lives several blocks away from the home, said he was happy with the verdict, but that Jackson needs to change. "How would you feel about Michael Jackson sleeping with your sons at your house?" he said. "He has to be more careful."

The verdict also was big news around the world, as morning television shows in Australia broke into programming with live coverage of the verdict and the Middle East news channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya interrupted their schedules when Jackson arrived at the courthouse.

"The minutes before the verdict were the most nervous moments of my life. Now, these are the happiest moments of my life," said Kent Vilhemsson, 21, watching in Skovde, Sweden.

"The accusations were a blow to his image. But if he continues to produce good music, people will soon forget," said deejay Felix Hu of China Radio International.

Other international viewers thought the case marked the end of an era.

"The magic is forgotten," said Valdeci Pereira, an evangelist preacher in the Dona Marta shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, where Jackson filmed the video "They Don't Care About Us" in 1996. "People will never listen to his music the same way again."

In New York City's Times Square, a few hundred people gathered to watch the verdict on a big screen. Shouts rang out at each not-guilty pronouncement.

"I thought he was going to be found guilty, so I am happy for him," said Jacqueline Ingram, 30, of Winston-Salem, N.C. "I really thought it was going to be impossible for Michael to get a fair trial."

As Jackson left the courtroom, more than a dozen white balloons were released. The musician blew kisses and waved to the exultant crowd before departing for Neverland.

Karen Manning, 50, of Las Vegas, who sat in court for two months in support of the pop star, said she hoped the verdict would send a signal to him: "He needs to grow up now."

The Santa Maria Times, a morning daily, published an extra edition with a banner headline reading "NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS." It was marketed as a commemorative edition, a $1 souvenir for readers in a city whose residents have enjoyed or endured the spotlight of celebrity trial.

About 6,000 copies of the 8-page color edition were printed and "we sold a bunch down at Neverland ranch" to fans, said Tom Bolton, the newspaper's executive editor. Hawkers "are coming back and basically dropping bags of money," Bolton said.

Around the courthouse in Santa Maria, police had barricaded the streets. About 40 officers holding batons and riot helmets watched over the swelling crowd.

Authorities said seven people had been arrested outside court since jury selection began Jan. 31. Most involved misdemeanors by Jackson fans.

At least two dozen fans had maintained a daily presence at the courthouse — often screaming at prosecutors and TV reporters they considered biased.