updated 06/14/2005 AT 2:35 PM ET
•originally published 06/14/2005 AT 8:00 AM ET
Jurors in the Michael Jackson case – who found the pop star not guilty Monday on all 10 charges against him in his child molestation trial – say their decision boiled down to the prosecution’s key witness, the accuser’s mother.
“I disliked her intensely when she snapped her fingers at us,” said Juror No. 5, great-grandmother Elanor A. Cook, 79. “That’s when I thought, ‘Don’t snap your fingers at me, lady.’”
Juror No. 10, Pauline Coccoz, 46, an unemployed mother, also expressed outrage at the actions of the woman. “What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen? Just freely volunteer your child to sleep with someone. Not so much just Michael Jackson, but any person, for that matter.”
“As a mother,” said Juror No. 8, special-ed assistant Melissa Kathleen Herard, 42, “the values and the stuff she has taught them and they have learned is very hard to comprehend. I wouldn’t want any of my children to lie for their own gain.”
Jury foreman Paul Rodriguez, 63, a retired school counselor, was particularly annoyed to be singled out by the accuser’s mom because he, too, is Hispanic. “When she looked at me and snapped her fingers three times and she says, ‘You know how our culture is?’ and winks at me. No, that’s not the way our culture is.”
Jackson, 46, looking frail and emotionless as he left the Santa Maria County Courthouse on Monday, has yet to comment on the ordeal of his trial, but his father, Joe Jackson, cheerfully greeted fans outside the gates of his son’s Neverland Ranch Monday night – as Michael had gone to bed early.
Before that, the family prayed together in a “somber gathering,” according to Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau.
On Tuesday’s Today show, the defense attorney went on to say that his client’s reaction to the outcome was that he was “very relieved, and very exhausted. He feels wonderful for his family not having to go through any more of this.” He said that Jackson now needs to go through a recovery period. “He’s physically exhausted.”
Mesereau also said Jackson will no longer share his bed with children. “He’s not going to do that,” he said. “He’s not going to make himself vulnerable to this anymore.”
The defense lawyer, however, said that Jackson will continue to be “a convenient target for people who want to extract money or build careers at his expense.”
Immediately after the verdict, the prosecutor in the case, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon, admitted his disappointment. “In 37 years, I’ve never quarreled with a jury verdict, and I’m not going to start today,” he said in a press conference. Asked if he thought a child molester had gone free, Sneddon grimly responded, “No comment.”
As for the lingering question of Jackson’s flagging career, the Wall Street Journal (reporting that the trial could have left Jackson as much as $270 million in debt), says the jury is still out.
Former CBS Records honcho Walter Yetnikoff, who oversaw the release of Jackson’s landmark 1982 album Thriller, is pessimistic, calling Jackson’s image “a freak show.” Of his career, Yetnikoff adds: “Why would one assume that could be resurrected? My assumption is it couldn’t be. … I hope I’m wrong.”
Counters Michael’s advisor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking to the Journal: “Michael began to seem like a persecuted hero. It seemed like Michael against the world. And he won. If he went to Madison Square Garden tonight, he’d sell it out.”