Published June 13, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Key players in Michael Jackson's molestation trial:
MICHAEL JACKSON: Although he didn't testify, the 46-year-old entertainer commanded the spotlight during the trial. Seated at the counsel table in dark jackets and a rainbow of colored vests and armbands, he showed little emotion during the proceedings -- even when his accuser testified. Jackson did speak in a series of videotapes played for the jury, and he proclaimed his innocence in interviews and statements outside the courthouse. He complained of excruciating back pain during the trial, requiring several trips to the hosim twice. The defense called him a cunning con artist. He turned hostile under defense questioning, but his testimony was bolstered by a videotape showing him haltingly describe the allegations to detectives for the first time.
THE ACCUSER'S MOTHER: Depicted by Jackson's attorneys as a grifter and a welfare cheat who coached her children to accuse Jackson, the woman gave dramatic, tearful and sometimes-convoluted testimony. She claimed she was held against her will and moved around by Jackson associates who claimed "killers" were after her family.
THE PROSECUTION: Veteran District Attorney Thomas Sneddon Jr. first went after Jackson in 1994. But no molestation charges were filed after that accuser reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the entertainer and stopped cooperating with authorities. Jackson later denounced the prosecutor in song lyrics as a "cold man." Sneddon was aided by prosecutor Ron Zonen, who did most of the tough questioning and delivered closing arguments.
THE DEFENSE: Lead attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. took over when Jackson fired his former lawyers last year. Mesereau's cross-examination during the trial was sharp and effective. Known for his shoulder-length white hair, the smooth-talking Harvard graduate was at the center of some of the most dramatic courtroom moments.
THE JUDGE: Rodney S. Melville is known for a no-nonsense style, but displayed flashes of humor in court. He imposed unprecedented secrecy, keeping most pretrial documents sealed, including Jackson's indictment. A recovering alcoholic and former prosecutor, he helped establish the county's first court for substance abusers.