SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The release of six handwritten notes from jurors in theMichael Jackson (search) case show they reached their decision to acquit the pop star after careful consideration of evidence, including a total review of the accuser's testimony.
A request from the jury foreman to Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville (search) resulted in a court stenographer going to the jury room and reading back the boy's entire testimony.
The notes, which were disclosed in response to a news media request, also showed jurors were briefly deadlocked on two lesser charges that accused Jackson of furnishing alcohol to a minor. They quickly broke that deadlock and agreed on an acquittal.
"We cannot agree on the lesser counts of seven and eight," said one note, which was quickly superseded by another saying, "Please disregard our prior request with counts 7 and 8."
A short time later, jurors unanimously acquitted Jackson of all 10 charges against him as well as the lesser options that were offered to them if they acquitted him of the more serious counts.
The jury notes were sealed by the judge during deliberations. He agreed at a hearing Thursday to release virtually all documents he had sealed during the trial.
"I have no intention to keep anything sealed except something that might involve privacy matters of a juror," Melville said during the hearing that led to release of the documents. The judge also ordered authorities to return the passport Jackson had to surrender when he was arrested. Melville had already ordered that Jackson's $3 million bail be returned.
Melville delayed the release of many items to give attorneys time to object to unsealing specific documents. He told lawyers to submit any requests to keep matters sealed by June 23.
On Monday, Jackson, 46, was acquitted of all charges alleging he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, plied the boy with wine and conspired to hold him and his family captive to get them to make a video rebutting a damaging television documentary.
Jackson has not appeared in public since the verdict, but the Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the singer's family was throwing a party for his most loyal fans at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez on Saturday night.
The paper reported that a group of fans selected by the Jackson family would likely find out later Friday who was invited to the bash. It wasn't immediately known if Jackson himself would be at the party.
"We don't know who will perform. We're just told the Jackson family is putting together an event for fans they have selected," Frances Snyder, a spokeswoman for the casino, told the Times.
The casino is close to Jackson's Neverland ranch, and members of the pop star's family, including his father, Joe, have been staying at the casino hotel in recent weeks and eating at the resort's restaurant, the Willows.
"We get a lot of famous people, so it's been business as usual," said Snyder. "For Saturday, we're expecting a lot of people to be interested."
Jackson's security detail was expected to join the casino's security force for the party, Snyder said.
Melville said it could take as long as a month to release the voluminous amount of information that was sealed during the trial. Among the items are search warrants, sections of motions that were blacked out, questions asked by the jury during deliberations and transcripts of hearings in the judge's chambers.
The judge initially refused to allow the electronic media to copy videos shown during the trial after Jackson defense attorney Robert Sanger argued there was no legal right for the media to be allowed to sell evidence in the case by broadcasting it worldwide. Sanger said the videos included pictures of Jackson's home.
"There's no right to sell those around the world. This is not a public-interest issue," he said.
Media lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr. argued that certain videos, primarily the so-called rebuttal video, had been a focus of the trial and "we think there's a public interest in that."
The judge acknowledged he had clashed with the news media over First Amendment issues before and during the trial.
"The issues are very important issues," Melville said. "... I had issues to protect, things that needed to be done to create a fair trial for both parties."
He commended Boutrous' work in arguing the news media's positions.
Outside court, Boutrous said he was glad the material was to be released.
"But it would have been preferable and constitutionally required to have this information as we went along in the case," he said. "We continue to believe that the First Amendment supported greater access."
On another issue, the judge agreed to return Jackson family memorabilia that had been seized from a New Jersey man who bought the items at an auction of a commercial storage locker's contents.
Edgar Pease III, the lawyer for Henry V. Vaccaro, said his client was now a defendant in a federal lawsuit by Jackson and his sister Janet, who want the materials back and claim they were stolen.
Sanger said outside court that Jackson is entitled to the return of all property that was seized from him.
"Mr. Jackson was exonerated. He was not guilty 10 times over. He should be allowed go on with his life," Sanger said.