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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Michael Jackson cleared of abuse
Michael Jackson leaving court
Michael Jackson waved to fans but did not speak as he left court
Pop star Michael Jackson has been found not guilty of all charges at the end of his four-month-long child abuse trial.

There were cheers from fans outside the court as the verdicts were read. The singer had strenuously denied molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo.

He was also cleared of giving alcohol to the boy, now 15, and conspiring to kidnap him and his family.

The star left the court in Santa Maria, California, for his Neverland ranch, without speaking to fans.

We expected some better evidence, something more convincing - but it just wasn't there
Jury member

His lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, said: "Justice was served. Michael Jackson is innocent."

Some 300 fans later gathered outside Mr Jackson's home, hoping to get a glimpse of the star, with cars backed up for at least 3km (2 miles) either side of the narrow lane leading to the Neverland ranch.

The singer's father, Joe Jackson, came down to the gates to speak briefly with fans.

"As far as we are concerned justice has been served," he said. Michael Jackson had gone to bed exhausted, he added.

'Muted emotion'

Speaking on CNN, the star's brothers Tito said the verdict had been a huge relief for the Jackson family.

"As they kept reading the counts, the pressure was lifting off me and I was holding my mom tight and we all cried through every count," he said.

The BBC's Peter Bowes, who was in court in Santa Maria, said Mr Jackson held a tissue up to his face and showed "muted emotion" as the verdicts were read.

Michael Jackson fans react to the not-guilty verdicts

Judge Rodney Melville told the singer he was free to go, and also read a statement from the jury saying: "We the jury feel the weight of the world's eyes upon us."

The jurors had asked to be allowed to return to "our private lives as anonymously as we came", he added.

At a subsequent news conference, an unnamed male jury member said: "One of the first things we decided, [was] that we had to look at him as just like any other individual. Not just as a celebrity.

"And once we got that established, we were able to deal with it just as fairly as we could with anybody else."

Another juror said: "We expected some better evidence, something more convincing - but it just wasn't there."

TV documentary

The verdicts on the 10 charges were reached after about 30 hours of deliberations over the last week.

Hundreds of reporters and supporters gathered for the verdicts, with scores of fans bursting into tears as the decisions were relayed on loudspeakers.

Michael Jackson fans outside his Neverland ranch
Jubilant fans danced and sung to Jackson's music outside Neverland
Mr Jackson had been in court with family members including father Joe, mother Katherine and sisters LaToya and Janet.

The singer waved to fans as he left the Santa Maria courthouse, surrounded by minders and family members. He walked straight to his car with little emotion and without the expected statement to the waiting fans and media.

Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon, who led the case against Jackson, said he accepted the decision. "We did the right thing for the right reasons," he said.

He was "not going to look back and apologise for what we've done", he told reporters. "We've done a very conscientious and thorough job."

The jury did their job - from what I heard I would have done the same
Jennifer B, Wisconsin, USA

Mr Jackson's former wife Debbie Rowe, who defended the star in court, said she was "overjoyed that the justice system really works".

Fan Tara Bardella, 19, who came from Arizona two weeks ago to wait for the verdicts, said: "This proves that justice can prevail in America."

Raffles Vanexel, 29, from Amsterdam, said: "I cried as a little baby, it was the most beautiful day of my life."

Fan releasing a white dove on hearing the verdicts
One fan released a white dove as every verdict was read out
Mr Jackson's trial began in February and the jury retired on 3 June. More than 100 witnesses took the stand, including Gavin Arvizo and his mother Janet.

Gavin told the court the singer had put his hands down his trousers and fondled him at Neverland.

The trial was sparked after British journalist Martin Bashir made a documentary in which Jackson admitted sharing his bed with children.

The star could have been jailed for more than 18 years if convicted on all charges.

See the scenes at the Santa Maria courthouse


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