BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Reporters' log: Michael Jackson trial

Michael Jackson's trial on child abuse has drawn to a close in the Californian town of Santa Maria. BBC reporters have been sharing their observations on what has happened both inside and outside the courtroom.

Matthew Davis: Monday 13 June: 2030 local time (0430BST Tuesday)

The gates of Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch became a rallying point for hundreds of fans in the hours after the singer's acquittal.

Lines of cars stretched for almost a mile along the country road by the estate near the town of Los Olivos, about 30 minutes drive from Santa Maria.

Supporters attached messages of support to the gates and fence, cheering wildly when vehicles entered.

Many fans brandished copies of a local newspaper proclaiming Jackson "Not guilty on all counts".

Randy, Tito and Jermaine - Michael's brothers - all made appearances. Jermaine thanked fans for keeping their faith with the singer.

The loudest cheers were reserved for defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau, who got out of his car inside the gate.

There were hopes that the singer himself might appear, or open the ranch for an impromptu party to celebrate the 10 innocent verdicts.

But as the sun was setting over the hills around Neverland, a spokesman told those clustered at the entrance that Jackson would not be taking their applause - he needed to sleep after one of the most emotional days of his life.

Peter Bowes: Monday 13 June: 1500 local time (2300BST)

The atmosphere was thick with tension.

As the jurors filed into court, their faces gave nothing away. They looked very serious and didn't seem to look at Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson leaves court
Michael Jackson waved to fans after the verdict

The singer appeared to be rigid with fear but stoic as he awaited the verdict.

The judge warned everyone that he would tolerate no outbursts - "no unhappiness or jubilance," he said.

Then the verdict came. Not guilty on every count. The tension lifted. I could feel a sense of relief ripple around the courtroom.

The distant sound of the fans cheering outside could be heard by everyone.

Michael Jackson dabbed his eyes and the fans behind me started sobbing. The singer gave us little sense of his true emotions.

His mum, just in front of me, wiped a tear from her eye. Janet Jackson just starred into space.

Within minutes the family were heading out of the court - back to Neverland. In a strange sense it was a low key end to this most extraordinary trial. Almost an anti-climax.

Daniel Lak: Monday 13 June: 1050 local time (1850BST)

To paraphrase the old adage, the devil makes rumours for idle journalists.

On day seven of the Michael Jackson jury deliberations it's being widely reported - but not confirmed - that testimony from the 13-year-old boy who says Mr Jackson sexually abused him is being read back to jurors by the court clerk.

That, of course, is the key to the five sexual abuse charges against the singer - whether or not the jury believe the accuser.

There is all sorts of speculation too about the implications for a guilty or not guilty verdict for the amount of time it's taking the jurors to make up their mind.

A longer deliberation could mean acquittal or a hung jury, it's said - but equally, the complexity of the case could just mean that the jurors are being thorough.

Outside court, the media is reduced to reporting on ructions in the Jackson camp.

Late last week, the Jackson family fired the woman who had spoken to the media on his behalf for the entire trial.

It is thought that Mr Jackson's younger brother, Randy, is now taking over the running of his day-to-day affairs.

Matthew Davis: Friday 10 June: 1233 local time (2033BST)

Coverage of the Michael Jackson trial sank to a new low on Friday when the singer's self-appointed "number one fan" held a news conference to discuss a restraining order that has been taken out on him by a US reporter.

BJ Hickman
Hickman is a big presence outside the courthouse
Twenty-year-old BJ Hickman, from Knoxville, Tennessee has been banned from going within 20 yards of Court TV's Diane Dimond after persistently shouting abuse at her as she delivered reports outside court.

Hickman's size (approximately three Michael Jacksons) and the vociferous nature of his support for the star have made him a micro-celebrity in the court environs.

Accompanied by a female friend, Mr Hickman sauntered to the shade of a nearby tree to address a crowd of dozens of reporters - a number inversely proportionate to the amount of real news emanating from the trial.

He was abiding by the restraining order, he said, but "simply disagreeing with how she (Dimond) was reporting this case".

With that 20-second soundbite he was off, a gaggle of reporters in pursuit as if Jackson himself had dropped by to see how things were getting on.

Flashing a two-fingered salute Hickman broke into a brief run to escape the pack, being careful to cross the street away from the Court TV live position.

Peter Bowes: Thursday 9 June: 2151 local time (0551BST Friday)

The jury deliberated for less than two and a half hours today.

The judge called a half day so that some members of the panel could attend a local high school's graduation ceremony.

There is a considerable amount of excitement around the courthouse over a possible Friday verdict - a favourite day for jurors to wrap their deliberations.

They have been discussing the case now for precisely 22 hours and 54 minutes.

They have not asked for any testimony to be read back. In fact, we have no idea what they're doing. They could be watching Martin Bashir's documentary over and over, flicking through Michael Jackson's magazine collection or engaged in heated debate.

Whatever, most pundits suspect they are taking their job seriously.

"My read is that this is a very conscientious jury," said former Santa Barbara prosecutor Craig Smith. "I do predict that if it gets into 10 days, we probably have a hung jury - they can't agree."

We're at day six - and counting.

Peter Bowes: Weds 8 June: 1837 local time (0247 BST Thurs)

Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain at a press conference outside the court: "I never speak to the media without talking to Tom Mesereau because I understand, quite unlike many of you, that this is a serious situation."

Michael Jackson's spokeswoman Raymone K Bain
The press corps hung on Bain's every word
Jackson lawyer Thomas A Mesereau in a written statement following a meeting with the judge: "I have not authorised anyone to speak or hold any press conferences on behalf of Michael Jackson or his family. A gag order is in effect which the defence team will continue to honour."

The Jackson camp has a problem. Too many people are talking about Michael. As I reported earlier today, the Rev Jesse Jackson paid another visit to the courthouse to update the press about his good friend.

His appearances always cause a flurry of activity as reporters scramble for any new titbit of information. He said a television report about the jail a guilty Jackson would be taken to amounted to "psychological warfare".

When we first got wind of the Mesereau statement it was a shot in the arm for the assembled media. Let's face it, we are getting bored and impatient.

People were scurrying around the court complex as if the verdict had come in. It was a sign of the frenzied activity to come when the jury deliberations finally end.

Peter Bowes: Wednesday 8 June: 0832 local time (1632 BST)

The jury arrived for day four of deliberations a few minutes ago. Once again they were dressed in jeans and T-shirts - but appeared to be less chatty than yesterday.

The US radio man sitting next to me in the press pen has already been on the air to pass this nugget of information onto his breakfast audience. Legal experts say it is not unusual for the jury to be deliberating this long.

There are fewer fans camped outside the court today although Jesse Jackson is here early - presumably eager to speak into another microphone.

His message is the same every day: Michael's back is hurting but he firmly believes he will be found not guilty.

Daniel Lak: Tuesday 7 June: 1507 local time (2307 BST)

Another day without a verdict. When it's announced at 1430 local time that the jury has left the courthouse, a sense of relief settles over the assembled media personnel.

Michael Jackson fans
Mr Jackson's fans have been a constant support

Judge Rodney Melville has decreed that deliberations will take place during the same hours that were set aside for court proceedings - 0830 to 1430.

Some people who've been covering this case from the beginning joke about the "Melville diet", as the judge's timetable does not set aside time for a lunch break. Mind you, when one juror left today, he was carrying a pink cake box.

One of the other drawbacks of all of this waiting is the rumour mill that constantly grinds out wild stories about what's going on. On Monday, there was a tale about a juror being disqualified because her grandmother had been interviewed about the case on American television. Not true.

Then there are the persistent reports of Michael Jackson's ill health. His spokeswoman denies them, as does the Revered Jesse Jackson, whose daily press conferences relieve the mid-deliberation tedium here.

Of course, one can't lose sight of the fact that there are serious issues being decided here. No-one can make light of the charges against Michael Jackson, or the effect of the trial on many people, including the singer and his family. Either verdict, guilty or not guilty, will have huge implications for those involved in the case.

And with the sheer complexity of the 10 charges against Jackson, we could be in for a lot more legal manoeuvring with retrials, appeals and other proceedings highly possible.

Peter Bowes: Tuesday 7 June: 1317 local time (2117 BST)

The jurors were wearing jeans and T-shirts this morning and that means we're unlikely to get a verdict today. According to the pundits, US jurors tend to dress up on the day they expect to wind up their deliberations. That's because they want to look good on TV.

It has come down to a jury fashion watch but it could turn out to be our best indicator of an imminent verdict - short of the court generating some white smoke.

When the trial is over there are likely to be three news conferences - the defence, prosecution and the jurors. There has already been a TV report that one of the jurors is planning, with the help of her family, to write a book.

Peter Bowes: Monday 6 June: 2232 local time (0632 Tues BST)

Chaos and pandemonium descended on the courthouse today.

Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson's arrival caused a media scrum

As the jury deliberated, the scene outside the building was pure farce.

Joe Jackson, Michael's dad, arrived at the court to be with his son.

He raged through a stampeding army of reporters and camera crews only to be told by a sheriff's officer that his little boy was not at the court.

We all knew that, but why didn't he? It seems Joe Jackson have been confused by the sight of Michael's caravan of vehicles leaving Neverland.

He thought they were heading for the courthouse in Santa Maria - and presumably transporting his son to hear his fate.

Instead, he was later informed, they were going to the local car wash.

Peter Bowes: Sunday 5 June: 2326 local time (0726 Mon BST)

Michael Jackson is spending the night at Neverland after another day of drama at the local hospital. The singer was once again rushed in for emergency treatment on his back.

Spokeswoman Raymone Bain said the frail pop star was "under a tremendous amount of stress" but other than his back he was "doing fine."

From 0830 (1630 BST) on Monday, Mr Jackson will have to be in a permanent state of readiness to get to court within an hour of the jury reaching a verdict.

For the duration of the trial he has been getting up at 0430 to prepare for an 0830 court start. If the stress is already getting to him, there is no telling the kind of pressure the singer will be under when that call eventually comes.

Along with the defendant, we will all get about one hour's notice that a verdict has been reached and is about to be read in court. To the relief of many news organisations, the judge has approved an audio feed of the announcement. Until then, we wait.

Matthew Davis: Sunday 5 June: 1334 local time (2134 BST)

Michael Jackson's health is once again the focus of attention after a van carrying cardio care equipment visited Neverland Ranch.

Michael Jackson
The strain on Michael Jackson has been showing
The LA-based company that supplied the equipment specialises in Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) machines - which are used to help angina patients reduce shortness of breath, chest pains or stabilise blood pressure.

The singer has looked increasingly frail and stressed by his child sex abuse trial, which has twice been delayed by his poor health.

On Thursday night - hours before the jury retired to consider a verdict - he was admitted to a local hospital although he did not stay overnight.

Dick Gregory, a family friend who has been visiting the Jackson family at Neverland, said on Saturday: "When you are under stress for 12 months, for 18 months, no one can understand but the person going through it.

"He was so dehydrated I thought he was developing kidney stones... you can't drink enough water while you are standing in court."

Critics say Jackson's health problems are merely histrionics designed to win sympathy, but he certainly looks a different man from the Michael Jackson who danced on the roof of an SUV in front of crowds of fans at his arraignment hearing, some 18 months ago.

Peter Bowes: Friday 3 June: 2217 local time (0617 Sat BST)

With a huge sigh of relief all around, the jury is out. They elected a foreman and promptly went home for the weekend.

Michael Jackson
It is a tense time for the singer and his supporters

The final chapter of this extraordinary story will unfold this week. We hope.

But while all the attention today has been on the closing stages of the trial, there has been a side bar issue to grapple with. Has the judge been overly mean in limiting the number of bathroom breaks during the trial to just three a day?

Michael Jackson apparently had to pop into a local hospital last night to get topped up with electrolytes.

A Jackson family lawyer blamed Michael's "dehydration" on his limiting the amount of fluids he has been drinking during court hours - because there are so few opportunities to pop to the loo.

It is true that the courtroom breaks have been short. I have been limiting myself to one cup of coffee every morning - for exactly the same reason.

In the early days of the trial, I would often be bursting for a pee just as some witness or other got to a crucial bit of testimony.

So while I have some sympathy with Jackson on this subject, it is still difficult to see why he had to make such a drama of it. Somehow, the rest of us all managed to plait our legs while the lawyers droned on.

Why should Michael Joe Jackson be so different? He's only the King of Pop.

Matthew Davis: Friday 3 June: 1820 local time (0220 Sat BST)

As the Michael Jackson trial nears its climax, it seems the stress that has built up over the last four months is affecting everyone.

Drivers in the singer's convoy were unusually on edge as they ferried Jackson back to Neverland on Friday, setting up a defensive formation to stop news crews filming the singer's vehicle.

It worked too well for the ordinary folks of Santa Maria, however, who found themselves trapped in an ever-growing tailback.

Reporters, meanwhile, were scurrying over rumours that were clearly unfounded; like whispers that the jury had already made up its mind - or that Michael Jackson was in hospital again - when camera shots clearly showed him on the road.

Newcomers to the trial are suffering a version of Jerusalem Syndrome, a mental condition that can cause first time visitors to the city to have delusions that they are biblical figures.

"It's surreal," observed one greenhorn hack as the entire Jackson family - including Janet and LaToya, and brothers Jermaine, Tito and Randy turned up to court.

No sign yet of anchormen breaking into a Moonwalk, however.

Peter Bowes: Thursday 2 June: 2003 local time (0403 Fri BST)

"Folks, this is Superior Court - there's a certain excitement in the air."

Michael Jackson's fans chase after his car
Jackson's fans are keeping a close eye on the performer
The words of the courtroom bailiff, Leslie Avila, as she gave her daily lecture at the beginning of the day. It was something of an understatement. There was an unbelievable amount of tension as the lawyers prepared to present their final arguments.

"No gasping, no non-verbal gestures to get the jury's attention," continued Sheriff Avila. The scene was set for the final showdown before the case goes to the jury.

Both sides presented compelling arguments. The prosecution made effective use of a photographic montage on the big screen showing all the alleged victims of Michael Jackson. The young boys bear an uncanny resemblance to each other.

Thomas Mesereau, for the defence, got off to an unfortunate start when his computer failed. There was an uncomfortable break of about 20 minutes while the courtroom techies scurried around to try to get it to work. A couple of the jurors seized the opportunity to slip out of the room for a quick break.

Both lawyers looked drained by the end of the day. Both chose to personally attack the other in their speeches. Michael Jackson scribbled notes to Mr Mesereau when he heard something from the other side he didn't like. We are none the wiser about which way the verdict will go.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific