It’s been more than 12 years since Michael Jackson‘s infamous 2005 child molestation trial, when the legendary singer was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo.
Jackson was eventually found not guilty of all charges by the 12-person jury, but remained under heavy public scrutiny and suspicion up until his death at age 50 in 2009.
Now four of the 12 jurors at his trial — Tammy Bolton, Paulina Coccoz, Ray Haltman and Melissa Herard, along with one of the alternates, Joseph Gastelo — are speaking out on true-crime series The Jury Speaks about the jury’s decision, and why they found the King of Pop innocent.
First of all, the jurors agreed, Arvizo’s testimony at trial was suspicious. Even though he was only 15 years old at the time, the alleged victim’s comments seemed at odds with someone who’d been sexually abused.
“He didn’t seem as distraught as you would think somebody who’d been molested would be,” said Coccoz.
Coupled with Arvizo’s interview with the sheriff’s department, the jury deduced that something wasn’t right with Arvizo’s demeanour.
According to Herard, she asked her fellow jurors to take a closer look at Arvizo’s smirk during the police interview, which allegedly appeared on Arvizo’s face after he accused Jackson of kissing him on the lips. She found it very unconvincing that someone who was kissed against their will could possibly smirk about it.
Initially, the jury was divided. When the 12 jurors voted, nine chose acquittal and three believed Jackson was guilty. Of course, that changed by the end of the trial. But as Fox News crime reporter Aphrodite Jones said on The Jury Speaks, the jury, the media and the public at large were almost expected to believe Jackson was guilty, evidence unseen.
“The media pressure was such that there was a desire for them to have a guilty verdict, and when they didn’t, it was like… how dare you find Michael Jackson not guilty?” Jones said.
Most importantly, the jurors say, if the trial took place in 2017, they would still find Jackson innocent of all the charges. Since the trial’s conclusion and Jackson’s death, more information has come to light — including reports of a stockpile of pornography at Neverland Ranch and Jackson’s own daughter saying he was “murdered” — but the jurors contend that the singer was innocent, and there simply wasn’t enough compelling, convincing evidence from the prosecution.
“I think he had a giggly, stupid relationship with children that was misconstrued,” Coccoz said.
The pop star’s reputation never recovered post-trial despite the innocent verdict, and he died four years later. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.