updated 6/14/2005 12:05:36 PM ET 2005-06-14T16:05:36

Guest: Larry Hackett, Jesse Jackson, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, Roy Black

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Not guilty.  Michael Jackson beats all charges. 

It‘s a verdict, but is it justice?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. 

Michael Jackson wins acquittal on all—on four counts of committing lewd acts upon a child, plus multiple counts of conspiracy to commit child abduction, to commit false imprisonment, to commit extortion, administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony, of providing alcohol to minors.

Why so much smoke and no fire? 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be with us, by the way, tomorrow night. 

We begin with two attorneys who have closely followed the Jackson case.  Paul Pfingst is the former district attorney of San Diego County and is an MSNBC legal analyst.  And Roy Black is a criminal defense attorney.  We‘re also joined by jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.

Let me to go Roy Black first. 

Roy, what is the jury saying here, besides, obviously, not guilty? 

But what is the message they‘re giving us in this—in this judgment? 

ROY BLACK, ATTORNEY:  Well, Chris, whether you like Michael Jackson or agree with this verdict, one thing I think you can look at—and I was just listening to the jurors in their press conference—they decided the case not on his bizarre lifestyle or the prior bad acts or his makeup or his celebrity and helped him.

They said they just didn‘t believe the government‘s witnesses, meaning, they did not believe the mother.  They thought she was manipulative.  They decided they did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  They did just what a jury is supposed to do, evaluate the credibility.  You may disagree with it, but they did their job. 

MATTHEWS:  And the prosecutor, Sneddon, Sneddon, said that I can‘t—

I can only go by what the complainant says.  I can‘t pick the pedigree of my witnesses. 

What did he mean by that? 

BLACK:  Well, he would much rather have somebody with some real credibility. 

But you have to remember, you have to look at who the messenger is, as well as the message.  And they thought this mother, who had lied in the past, who cheated, had manipulated her children.  And that‘s what—you know, you‘ve got to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.  And you could see why they had some doubts about this. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to—let me go to Paul. 

Do you see it the same way?  It‘s the problem with the witness here? 

PAUL PFINGST, NBC ANALYST:  Yes. 

Clearly, the major problem was with the witnesses.  But there is an element in here that can‘t be avoided.  And that is that, when you‘re a celebrity, the issue of motive becomes different than in every other case when you‘re not having a celebrity.  So, in this respect, the issue of being a celebrity worked for Michael Jackson.  That provided the motive for the mother and the son to come after him for money.  And, normally, that motive is not present in other cases. 

So, celebrity—celebrity involvement in this case can‘t be avoided. 

MATTHEWS:  It made it look like it was after the big, deep pockets of Michael Jackson.

PFINGST:  After—after the money. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me go to Jo-Ellan. 

You know, watching the jurors afterwards, Jo-Ellan—it‘s great to see you again, by the way.

JO-ELLAN DIMITRIUS, JURY CONSULTANT:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Looking at those witnesses—looking at those jurors, rather, I get the sense that some of the people, maybe they seem more sophisticated than the other jurors, seemed to be saying they didn‘t quite go along with the not guilty right away.  They had to be convinced based upon the instructions and based upon maybe peer group pressure there. 

DIMITRIUS:  Yes, it certainly sounds that way.  And my guess is, that‘s one of the reasons why they asked for the read-back of the alleged victim‘s testimony today. 

And I would also like to point out something that I think is really interesting in these high celebrity cases.  And that is, it would appear that, in high celebrity cases, it‘s almost—the prosecution has to prove almost beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is a higher burden that the prosecution needs to prove in these type of cases. 

And, you know, we‘ve seen in a lot of celebrity cases.  A lot of people contribute it to just being something that‘s a California phenomena.  But I think we‘ve seen it in other cases as well that have gone on outside of California. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s to go Dan Abrams right now, chief legal correspondent for NBC News and the host of “THE ABRAMS REPORT.” 

Roy pointed out before you came on right now, Dan, that the idea—well, the obvious notion, it is transparent, if not manifest, that Michael Jackson has an odd way of spending his life on this Earth, did not seem to convict in this case. 

DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, that‘s right. 

Look, there‘s one thing that‘s perfectly clear.  These jurors hated the mother of the accuser in this case.  And that is exactly how the defense hoped these jurors looked at the case.  They hoped that they would first say, let‘s look at this case through the eyes of the family.  Let‘s look at this case, not—not just through all these other people who are coming in, not through these other bad acts. 

But, first, we have to assess and only we have to assess, do we believe this boy?  And they clearly were impacted by the mother.  They didn‘t like the way she looked.  They didn‘t like the way that she sounded.  They didn‘t like the way that she snapped.  It was literally—you listen to them talking about it. 

Let‘s listen.  This is a couple of the jurors talking about the way the mother performed on the witness stand. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen, or just freely volunteer your child to sleep with someone and not just so much Michael Jackson, but any person, for that matter?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the “that”?  That “that” she mentioned. 

Who would allow “that” to happen? 

Do these people really believe there was no weirdness going on, on that Neverland Ranch? 

ABRAMS:  I guess so.  I mean, Chris, that‘s—that‘s the odd part about the verdict, is they‘re basically—this one juror, at least, is blaming the mother and saying, how could she have let her sob sleep in the same bed with Michael Jackson, but not blaming Michael Jackson for it.

Now, what they may have done is, they may have looked at it in the way that the judge instructed, which is to say, do you believe beyond a reasonable doubt, not just that Michael Jackson slept in bed with this boy...             

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  But that he actually molested this boy.  And I guess, in the end, the jurors said no. 

MATTHEWS:  If the jury was made up of the smarter, more aware correspondents covering this case, would he have gotten off? 

ABRAMS:  Maybe.  I think there would have been a hung jury.  The bottom line is, look, let‘s not—let‘s not treat these jurors as uneducated. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking—I‘m asking an objective question about the correspondents covering the case. 

ABRAMS:  I understand.

The bottom—the bottom line is, though, that three of these jurors have graduate degrees.  And so, some of them are smarter than some of the correspondents covering this case.  But I think, Chris, it is interesting, because, in most cases, we get a real good sense of what is going to happen.  There‘s no divide.  In the Scott Peterson case, everyone I think had a real good sense that Peterson was going to be convicted, should be convicted. 

But, in this case, there really was a divide amongst the journalists, even amongst the legal analysts covering the case.  And that‘s why I thought, all right, they probably reflect the public to a certain degree.  And they‘ll probably be a hung jury.  They won‘t be able to get all 12 to agree.  I don‘t think there would have been a conviction.  Let‘s assume you took 12 random journalists or media folks who are here covering the case.  I don‘t think you would have gotten a conviction.  I think, at best, you would have had a hung jury. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, is this, is this woman, the mother of the alleged victim, and I mean alleged at this point, the Mark Fuhrman of this case? 

ABRAMS:  You know, yes.  I think that‘s a good example, actually.  It‘s a good comparison, because she destroyed the case.  It was as if they looked at this case through the prism of mama.

And that‘s exactly what the defense wanted them to do.  And one of the jurors used the language, things just didn‘t add up, speaking specifically about the mother.  Things didn‘t add up.  Boy, that‘s telling. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  That basically says to me that these jurors were convinced that mom was behind all of this and they didn‘t like her.  They didn‘t trust her.  And they were not going to convict in large part based on her testimony. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s look at—let‘s all look at some more of the testimony by the jurors.  Here are two other jurors who clearly had a problem, as you say, with the accuser‘s mother. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us.  That is when I thought, don‘t snap your fingers at me, lady. 

(LAUGHTER) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The mother, when she looked at me and snapped her fingers a few times and she says, you know how our culture is and winks at me, I thought, no, that‘s not the way our culture is. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it. 

Let me go back to Jo-Ellan here.

It seems like everybody is agreeing here that the mother is the Mark Fuhrman here, the one who lost the case for the prosecution. 

DIMITRIUS:  Well, it certainly seems that way. 

I think another thing that really helped to tank the prosecution‘s case was when they brought in Debbie Rowe, Jackson‘s former wife.  The prosecution brings her in and thinks that they‘re going to have great success.  And, in fact, she is a big help for the defense.  So, I think, first and foremost, indeed, the mother was the Fuhrman of the case. 

But I think, second of all, I think that Debbie Rowe‘s performance in the prosecution‘s case in chief was absolutely disastrous for the prosecution. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, you first on this tough question, because it is not a lawyer‘s question.  It is a nonlawyer‘s question. 

Does this not guilty verdict mean innocent?  Do these people have a mind-set right now, these jurors, who seem very happy people right now, would they trust their kids at Neverland Ranch overnight? 

DIMITRIUS:  You know, an interesting question.

And I think the one juror—I believe it is number four—that answered the response about having a mother keeping her child there, to me, seems to indicate that, in fact, she would not allow her children to stay there.  And you‘re absolutely right, Chris.  While many juries come back with not guilty verdicts, in fact, they say, well, we don‘t necessarily think that something didn‘t go on.  It just didn‘t rise to the level of what the prosecution needed to prove. 

MATTHEWS:  Roy Black, does not guilty mean innocent here in the minds of the jury, as you‘ve—as you‘ve listened to them? 

BLACK:  Well, I think that‘s a very unfair question, Chris, because we have a system in which the state has to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. 

You don‘t to have prove you‘re innocence, because you know what?  How do you prove you did not molest somebody? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you can quibble, but I‘m asking you an objective question.

BLACK:  It‘s very difficult.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this juror believes the guy is innocent, he didn‘t do anything?

BLACK:  No,  I think the jury thinks he is weird.  He has a bizarre lifestyle.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do they think he is innocent? 

BLACK:  Well, I don‘t know if they think he is innocent or not.

But I will tell what you they do think.  They think that this mother is bizarre enough to have manipulated this whole case against him.  And her performance in the courtroom was very telling. 

MATTHEWS:  The reason I‘m asking the question—and maybe it is unfair—would these people trust their kids in the company overnight of Michael Jackson, having heard all this testimony, yes or no? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No way.

BLACK:  Well, just think about this.  He is dangling his kid over a balcony.  He has makeup on.  The guy is bizarre.  I wouldn‘t let anybody go stay at Neverland Ranch, let alone my kids. 

(CROSSTALK)

DIMITRIUS:  I wouldn‘t leave my kid there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You try this.  Does not guilty mean innocent here? 

PFINGST:  Clearly not.  When you looked at this jury—I‘ve seen juries come back in big cases, small cases, when they felt that defendant was actually innocent and got a raw deal.  And they came out and said so. 

This jury did not have a flattering thing or a kind thing to say about Michael Jackson.  The feeling in this jury was, clearly, the prosecution did not meet its burden.  If something happened, that is not their problem.  Their job was to evaluate the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  The prosecutor didn‘t make it.  We have to acquit them.  But they had no kind words for Michael Jackson.  So, I don‘t think they felt he was innocent.  I felt the prosecutor—they felt the prosecutor just didn‘t prove the case. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to come back. 

I‘m going to ask you fellows and I‘m going to ask Jo-Ellan as well, all of you, if you saw among those jurors, as they were being interviewed just now for all this time, if any of them looked like they really think they didn‘t go along with the majority, except it was peer group approval they were seeking.

We‘ll be right back with Dan Abrams, Roy Black, Paul Pfingst and Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.

And, later, Michael Jackson‘s spiritual adviser in this case, the Reverend Jackson, is going to join us.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Jackson verdict on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Still ahead, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson, on his next move now that he‘s been cleared of all charges.

HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Jackson verdict returns after this.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re looking now at a live picture from Neverland Ranch, where Michael Jackson is right now, after being acquitted on all charges. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Michael Jackson verdict tonight.  We‘re back with Dan Abrams, defense attorney Roy Black, former prosecutor Paul Pfingst, and jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.

Jo-Ellan, you first.  Did you see any jurors that were holding out all these last several days thinking he was more—that he was innocent—he was guilty? 

DIMITRIUS:  Well, you know, I didn‘t see the whole press conference. 

But it seemed as though just the little bit that I saw, there was one woman who was sitting in the front left that seemed to be a bit reticent about coming to the verdict that she did.  I ultimately would like to see the whole press conference.  But that was just my impression, based on sort of body language and the things that she said. 

MATTHEWS:  Roy Black, your thoughts on that?  Was it a unanimous jury from the get-go or was there some debate here? 

BLACK:  No, of course it was not. 

And, as a matter of fact, I thought that—that he did not get a verdict within the first couple of days was a real problem for him.  The jury was out for seven days.  So, they had to be discussing something.  And they asked for read-backs of testimony, reread the instructions.  I thought that some people needed convincing.  But you know what?  That‘s how our jury system operates. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

The instructions, that was pointed out by one of the jurors, Roy.  What‘s the—what do you think was key to the judge‘s instructions that nailed this acquittal?

BLACK:  Well, obviously the reasonable doubt instruction. 

I mean, let‘s face it.  That‘s the fallback position for the jurors.  They can feel confident in a verdict by saying, look, we read the reasonable doubt instruction.  And people keep saying, these were very long instructions, 90-plus pages.  But they were not that complicated.  This was not that complicated a case.  It was a credibility contest.  And that‘s why the reasonable doubt instruction was so key to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Reasonable doubt doesn‘t mean any doubt, does it?  What does reasonable doubt mean?  It means, if a reasonable person would think, I don‘t really know he did it. 

BLACK:  No, no, it means that you have a doubt based on reason and fact, not just imaginative, but something you can point your finger to. 

And I think what they did is, they looked at this mother.  They said, the defense says she orchestrated this whole thing.  They watched her performance in court.  And I‘ll tell what you what.  Saying that‘s a reasonable doubt I think is reasonable. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Paul Pfingst. 

Do you think a judge would have found the same verdict here? 

PFINGST:  Yes. 

I think judges, as general proposition, generally line up with—with juries on verdicts.  And, statistically, there‘s very little difference.  So, I think this judge, if given the same case, would likely have come to the same verdict.  But we‘ll never know because he will never tell anybody what his verdict would have been. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Dan Abrams, you spent so much time on this case.  I admire your concentration.  And I know you have deep thoughts on this case.  How could the jury have found the defendant innocent even on the booze charges? 

ABRAMS:  Well, not guilty, as you pointed out the distinction. 

MATTHEWS:  Not guilty.  How? 

ABRAMS:  And I—yes. 

Well, look, I think the reason that they could do this is basically what Roy was saying, is they could—they could fall back on the reasonable doubt instruction.  They could simply say, it wasn‘t demonstrated to us beyond a reasonable doubt.  And you were correct in asking that question.

It‘s not beyond a shadow of a doubt.  It is not beyond any doubt.  It is basically—the layperson‘s way, I think, to say it is 90-something percent...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  ... certainty, as opposed... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t we know as a fact that he gave them alcohol, gave them wine?  Don‘t we know that? 

ABRAMS:  No.  No.  We don‘t know for a fact. 

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t know it.

ABRAMS:  And I think, Chris, while many of us, I think Roy, I think me, I think many of us believe that he might be convicted here because we thought that the jurors probably would not follow the letter of the law. 

What we thought they might do is, we thought that they would say, boy, I‘m convinced that he has molested children in the past.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  But I‘m not so convinced in this case.  And, as a result, I just can‘t let him walk.  And I think that‘s what many of us thought that they would do.  And what they probably did is do something that we did not give them credit for.  And that is, they probably strictly followed the law and said this is the case. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I understand.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Roy—I‘ve got to ask Roy. 

In a regular trial, are juries this careful? 

BLACK:  Well, I think they try to be. 

But let me tell you something.  I have to give Dan credit, because he put his finger right on the issue.  And I think that was very well said.  I think that we underestimated this jury.  And we do that quite often.  But you know what?  There‘s 12 people from the community.  They decided they didn‘t believe it.  All the more power to them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s great having you all on.  Thank you. 

Congratulations, Dan.  What a milestone this has been.

Anyway, Roy Black, Paul Pfingst...

ABRAMS:  Finally.  I‘m glad it‘s over.

MATTHEWS:  Jo-Ellan Dimitrius. 

When we return, the Reverend Jesse Jackson is going to join us.  He served as spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson.  We‘re going to ask him what exactly that means and also his reaction to the verdict today.

This is HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Michael Jackson verdict on

MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has been serving as Michael Jackson‘s spiritual adviser. 

Reverend, thanks for coming on tonight.

Let me ask you, have you had any conversations with Michael today? 

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION:  Michael called me about—about 10:00 this morning.  And I could tell at this hour that he was full of stress and anxiety and fear. 

But, interestingly enough, he wanted to talk about his business holdings, his business options.  It suggested Michael Jackson knew he was going either be going to jail tonight in that eight-by-10 jail cell or coming back home.  And I advised him to right now focus on your prayer and your faith and let‘s get this matter over.  Then focus on your business issues. 

But Michael clearly has undergone some tremendous physical pain and anxiety, stress and fear during this period. 

MATTHEWS:  Are his problems behind him? 

JACKSON:  Well, fundamentally.  I mean, the problem of his going to jail is behind him.  He has some business challenges, but not as severe as the media projected, in the sense that Michael‘s assets were always greater than his debts were. 

And, to that extent, he could always, if he had to, liquidate some assets to offset some debt.  But he feels that there was a kind of conspiracy between the bank and his—and his advisers on manipulation.  Now, whether that‘s true or not, we do not know.  But what I am con—what I am aware of is that Michael‘s assets are greater than his debts.  There‘s no basis on foreclosing on him, move on those catalogs with the Beatles and Elvis, and Neverland Ranch. 

So, that will be his next sort of business challenges, which I‘m convinced he is prepared now to address. 

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t he own the Beatles records?  Doesn‘t he have a ton of money? 

JACKSON:  Well, you can be asset strong and cash weak.  He‘s not been

·         he‘s not been working. 

And the way the deal is set up, in effect, he puts up like $3 million a month in free interest payments.  And he has to put them up the first of every quarter.  And if he does not do it on time, even a—one day late, could trigger a run on his assets, including those catalogs.  And he was—and he came very close in April.  He put up like $2.6 million one day and the next day came with $400,000. 

Rather than the bank accept that the next day, they were going to foreclose the whole deal on him.  And that‘s when I ending up—being an appeal to the bank, the bank president, Ken Lewis, of Bank of America.  You cannot do this to a customer of this magnitude.  He needs the latitude to make up. 

And, so Michael Jackson‘s additional financial advisers kind of moved into that point.  And I think Fortress bought out the Bank of America deal and it kind of gave him stability during this season.  So, now the issue for him is recovering physically, recovering emotionally, getting his business back on footing and now beginning to recreate and indeed produce and perform again.  That is what on his mind.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Reverend, when anybody gets in trouble, they try to break it down to, somebody is out to get me.  I made a mistake.  It is usually a combination of the two, if we‘re smart. 

Did he think that the mother in this case, the one making the allegations with her son, was out for—you know, was a fortune cookie hunter? 

JACKSON:  He was—he was convinced of that. 

As a matter of fact, he felt betrayed, to look at those that he had trusted the most and invested the most in on that stand trying to send him to jail.  That—he felt a sense of betrayal.  And yet, somehow, he knew that, in each instance, when they would testify against him, on the cross-examination, they always wilted.  There was some stench of a money trail, which weakened their credibility. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

JACKSON:  And he had faith in the jury seeing through that and great confidence in his attorney, Tom Mesereau. 

So, you know, Michael really went through two trials simultaneously.  He went through a newsroom trial, where many of you convicted him, and a courtroom trial.  By innuendo and suggestion, he was guilty.  But, by fact and evidence, he was not.  And that‘s why he walked away today. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the big debate, Reverend—you know this.  You follow every event in the country—is over whether he could be—not that he‘s normal, because what does normal mean?  He‘s a bit bizarre, obviously, in his lifestyle. 

But could he have an innocent intention with regard to all these young boys he slept overnight with?  Could it be innocent?

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  Or is there a problem there just by the nature of it? 

JACKSON:  It could be innocence.  It could be naivete.

But, of course, my sharing with Michael was this.  The very appearance of impropriety is problematic.  Don‘t ever put yourself in that position again.  I think he gets that message now.  But there are a lot of things involved in this, Chris.  I mean, the idea that the mother, who had the—seemingly, the stench of money connected to her situation, and the fact that she stayed there at the same time, apparently, this issue weighed heavily on the jury as to what her motives were. 

But, of course, I‘ve sought to pray with him.  And, now, I pray not only for Michael, but pray for the children who have been the accusers, because, in many ways, there are no winners in this.  There—Michael is acquitted, but there are scars.  There‘s much pain.  And there must be some time now for healing on all sides, because he is acquitted, but there are scars that comes out of this long ordeal. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come back and talk to Reverend Jackson as a man of religion, a man of the cloth. 

I want to ask you about Michael Jackson‘s faith.  I‘m serious. 

JACKSON:  Indeed.

MATTHEWS:  And, tonight, on Eastern time, the debut of “THE SITUATION.”  That‘s a big debut tonight on a big night for Tucker Carlson.  I guess it‘s a good night to start a television show. 

And, tomorrow, my exclusive interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  She talked to me—she‘s going to talk to me about Iraq and some of the surprises this administration has faced.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I think we had, when we went to war, having tried everything diplomatically to avoid war, I think, when we went to war, we had a plan for how to deal with the—with the aftermath.  There were a number of things that surprised us, including the fact that the army, in a sense, kind of melted away in those last days after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my really grand—and I mean a grand interview with Condoleezza Rice.  It‘s a long one.  It‘s in-depth.  It‘s great, with the secretary of state tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern here on HARDBALL.

You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Michael Jackson has been found not guilty on all charges. 

We‘re back with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson. 

Larry Hackett is the deputy managing editor of “People” magazine.

But we begin with MSNBC News correspondent Mark Mullen, who joins us from outside Michael Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch, where Jackson and his family are tonight. 

Mark, thank you for joining us. 

Is there a sense that Michael Jackson is innocent and free? 

MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, there certainly is with his supporters.  There always were, and now basically all the more so. 

All of the people, Chris, that you see behind me right now are a lot of the people that were sort of hanging out through the entire course of the deliberations and much of the trial as well, many people who have come from all over the United States and, in some cases, all around the world, basically taking a victory lap right now. 

They‘re coming here to rally.  And, essentially, what they‘ve been doing, although you see like a cluster of several hundred people right now, they‘ve been cheering absolutely everybody who has come through the door.  Tom Mesereau came in in an SUV a little while ago, other members of the legal team, some members of Jackson‘s family and even a flower delivery man who came in just a little while ago.

As well, they‘re taking their turns sort of taunting the media, basically saying, Michael Jackson was innocent all along and the press tried to essentially frame him, according to one person that we talked to. 

Chris, you‘re an old newspaper man.  You worked for “The Examiner” and many other papers for a while.  A lot of people—you probably have—have not heard of “The Santa Maria Times.”  A lot of people had not heard of Santa Maria even before all of this.  But, today, they decided to publish a banner headline, “Not Guilty on All Counts.  Michael Jackson Acquitted of 10 Felony Charges.” 

So, at this point, Michael Jackson huddled behind there with his family, not expected to make a statement, but a lot of people here hoping that he will, or at least they‘ll get a family member to come by and give a wave.  For many of these folks, that‘s good enough. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, thank you.  It‘s a great report, NBC‘s Mark Mullen, who is at Neverland Ranch. 

We‘re back right now with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and “People” magazine‘s Larry Hackett.

As promised, Reverend, I want your thoughts and your experiences now with Michael Jackson spiritually.  What is he like spiritually? 

JACKSON:  Well, Michael comes from a family that has deep religious roots. 

And so, his sense of prayer and sense of mother and father is a very profound one in his life.  On the other hand, when your back—it‘s easier, as Job, in the case of Job, to worship God when a tailwind is behind your back and there are—there is wind beneath your wings for the sweep.  When your back is against the wall, it is really a test for your faith. 

And my point to Michael Jackson was that the jury has the fate.  You have the faith and God has the power.  And you go down sometime, but you get back up again, because the ground is no place for a champion.  And so, hold on to that faith.  And that‘s all you have to hold on to.  And wait until the morning comes. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Reverend, you have fought so long for civil rights.  I want to ask you, well, what did you think of that decision by the Senate tonight to finally apologize for never pushing any kind of legislation against lynching, all these years of the civil rights struggle? 

JACKSON:  Well, if justice delayed is justice denied, it is a bit late.  And yet, in some sense, the apology is in order.  The apology for slavery would be in order, and some repair for damage done. 

The apology in Mississippi for the lynching of Emmett Till would be—would be in order.  But I‘ve become suspect sometime of those that reach back and—and deal with these cases of many, many years back and won‘t deal with today‘s criminal justice crisis. 

A black man was shot at 125 times in L.A. about three weeks ago and hit in the back about eight times.  He was unarmed.  They thought he was, had been a cop killer, and he was not.  And yet, that concerns me, that we can reach back to get these long-ago cases, which are important, but not deal with today‘s criminal justice crisis and the racial disparity in these cases. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Larry Hackett on this current case, this amazing decision. 

You know, watching this case, and seeing so many charges, so many counts, and yet seeing a complete clean sweep by the defense, is that a surprise to the reporters covering this case?

LARRY HACKETT, “PEOPLE”:  I think it is.

I think some reporters thought that there would be a kind of split decision, something more ambiguous, that maybe they would get him on the alcohol charges or some of the other ones.  But, clearly, if you saw the press conference with the jurors, they weren‘t paying attention to the media.  I know that hurts us sometimes, but they weren‘t.  They were doing their job. 

And I know the reverend says that the media was basically—had convicted Michael Jackson.  I saw Tom Sneddon in his press conference and he wasn‘t very happy with the media either.  So I think it‘s not surprising that both sides have feelings about the way the media did their business. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you surprised that it all seems to turn on a Mark Fuhrman-type situation, where part of the prosecution case is tainted by one person and they become the emblem of the problem here?

HACKETT:  Well, I think, from the get-go, everyone said that this woman, that the accuser‘s mother, was someone who was very questionable.  And her testimony obviously was really something kind of unbelievable.  And everyone sort of knew that. 

So, I think that‘s not really a surprise.  Anybody who covered the trial and who wrote about the trial knew that she was going to be sort of the linchpin.  The jurors were very careful about what they said, but I think, looking back on it now, clearly, they didn‘t believe their story.  And that‘s where it all started.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about the woman juror sitting in the first row? 

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON:  Hey, Chris?  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, go ahead, Reverend.  Sure.

JACKSON:  I found that many of—many of the writers seemed to feel that Michael could beat the case. 

But many of the kind of fast cable news types, I mean, Nancy Grace, he‘s guilty, O‘Reilly, he‘s guilty, those who are competing for making the newsroom case for Michael, determined by inference, by innuendo, by suggestion, he was guilty.  But many of the other writers were much more deliberative and they had very different conclusions. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me—well—well, Reverend Jackson, what struck me was that woman juror sitting up front in the middle in that press conference, who said, any mother who would let her kid spend the night with Michael Jackson is almost the person responsible for whatever happens. 

It struck me there was a dichotomy, Reverend, between saying he‘s not guilty under the law—and we all understand our system of justice, and it is a good one—and whether there was not some problem to begin with. 

JACKSON:  Well, there was some problem, because  the witnesses had weak credibility. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I meant problems with having kids stay overnight at your house when you‘re a grownup. 

JACKSON:  Well, that is—it is problematic and improper, but not illegal. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

JACKSON:  And the judge—the jurors had to deal with fact and evidence, not innuendo or suggestion. 

And so, if reasonable doubt was extended, I knew he would be acquitted.  I feel—I felt that politics may have played the bigger role.  Of course, it was a very hostile political environment, in the sense that the sheriff was showing off the jail cell Michael was going to sleep in tonight last week. 

The DA, the sheriff, they were relentless.  And the jury was not sequestered.  So, I felt, perhaps, the jury could be poisoned by that.  But, somehow, they did not do that.  I felt they rose to the highest obligation to choose evidence and to choose facts on that basis.  They found him—the jury found him not guilty.  And that‘s enough to send him home tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, sure.  It should be. 

Let me ask you, Reverend, did Michael, in all the spiritual counseling you went through with him, did he ever talk about why this young boy would bring these charges against him in court under oath? 

JACKSON:  Michael always felt that there was money motivation. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But for the kid himself.  You mean the kid was put up to it, he thought? 

JACKSON:  Well, he did. 

But Michael always felt that those that he had either fired or dismissed in some way had a—a money motive.  He also felt that the issue around his holdings, relative to the—his catalogs was a factor.  There was a “Wall Street Journal” article I think last Friday.  They laid out in some case those he felt in fact were after his business.  So, he always felt the sense that the business holdings on the one hand and the money motive were factors. 

And, of course, you have to weigh those charges.  But, in Michael‘s most private moments, he declared his innocence over and over again.  And he had faith in this jury and faith in Tom Mesereau.  And, ultimately, it panned out for him tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s going to change his behavior with regard to young boys and not spend nights with them again now? 

JACKSON:  I think he is.  We talked about that in some measure, that however innocent and free he feels, that the appearance of impropriety is high-risk.  And, therefore, he should never subject himself again to this kind of situation. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, morally—so, Reverend, do you think it is more than just propriety?  Do you think there is something OK, but it looks bad here?  Or do you think there‘s something wrong with sleeping in bed with a kid, a young boy when you‘re a grownup? 

JACKSON:  I think there‘s something wrong with it, but nothing illegal about it unless one in fact goes to the next level. 

And that is the case here, of the standard.  And I would hope that Michael would learn.  There‘s the issue of those who surround him.  There‘s the issue of his—of trust, the issue of his appearance, the issue of—there are many issues here he can now address.  But I think that Michael has learned a lot. 

You know, up to this time, Chris, he‘s only seen sheriffs escorting him to concerts.  Now he saw a sheriff pursuing him. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

JACKSON:  He‘s never been in court before.  He‘s never seen a jury before.  Michael comes out of this, I think, a much more and perhaps a much more mature person.  I certainly hopes he learns those lessons.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he should spend time with people like yourself, who will tell him the straight skinny and not enable him?  It sounds like you may be the first person ever to talk straight to him and tell him, look, you don‘t live like this. 

JACKSON:  Well, I‘m sure I‘m not the first person.  But I do think that Michael will benefit more from those who have a rather sober view of what his real life options are and see him as a citizen and as a person, not just as a superstar. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I think you‘ve got to be right. 

We‘ll be right back with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Larry Hackett of “People” magazine.

When we do come back, what‘s next for Michael Jackson now that he‘s been acquitted of all charges?  What a difference a day made.

This is HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Michael Jackson‘s verdict on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, now that he‘s been acquitted, what‘s next for Michael Jackson?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Larry Hackett of “People” magazine. 

Larry, I was in Mexico City several years back doing a NAFTA piece and I noticed that Michael Jackson was able to fill a huge amphitheater, a huge auditorium, outdoor place, actually.  And he could do it all over Europe; he could do it all around the world in those days, not too many years ago.  Can he still do that coming off of this? 

HACKETT:  I think he can.  I think it is going to be very, very tough. 

What he should do, as you say, is get back to entertaining.  But the fact of the matter, putting aside his acquittal, the public has made up their mind, at least here in America, about what Michael Jackson is like.  And that impression is not very favorable.

His pop decline, recording wise, anyway, had been in decline for a long time.  It‘s going to be very, very tough to come back.  However, as you know, longtime rockers have live careers and make a lot of money performing live.  If he is up for it, I think that would be the best thing for him to do. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the Rolling Stones are still out there. 

HACKETT:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  One of the jurors said they put aside Michael Jackson‘s celebrity status.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the first things we decided, that we had to look at him as just like any other individual, not just as a celebrity.  And once we got that established, that we could go beyond that, we were able to deal with it just as fairly as we could with anybody else. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Larry, do you believe that? 

HACKETT:  I have to believe it.  I think it is the case.  I think, when you sit there for a long time, he just becomes somebody else.  So, I have to believe it.  I want to believe it. 

I think in his case, he needs to be, to pardon the phrase, to use one from corporate America, he needs to be rebranded.  It is going to be very, very difficult for him to do.  As I say, putting this aside, the public has long had an impression of Michael.  And it is one of him being rather bizarre.  Whether or not he can turn that around, it remains to be seen.  Out of adversity comes great art, in some cases, and maybe this will be the case with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the charge that—the assessment that one of the things that helped him in this case was the perception, well, here was a very wealthy man, a young guy still, with millions and millions of dollars that would have been a good explanation of why that mother of this child who was alleged to have been bothered by him, to have been molested by him, to go after the money?  In other words, his wealth itself became an almost self-justifying defense. 

HACKETT:  Right.  But, in this case, she has not sued yet.  She in fact went to criminal court.  It remains to be seen what will happen now.  And, of course, her past with J.C. Penney and whatnot would suggest that maybe she was a bit of a grifter.  And I think that obviously was a huge a impact on the jury. 

MATTHEWS:  Reverend Jackson, it‘s a tough question, but is Michael Jackson, knowing all you know about him, a role model? 

JACKSON:  Well, many ways, he is an entertainment role model. 

He becomes—he remains the most magnetic, electrifying entertainer

in the world today.  No entertainer in the world can match Michael Jackson

country for country on attracting people.  Now, even the issue of Michael‘s

·         his appearances around the world, he may be stronger around the world, but I think that, if Michael Jackson says, within three months, he is going to be someplace, he‘s going to fill it up. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  How about his role model as a person?  Is he one? 

JACKSON:  Well, that‘s not the role that he—he never assumed the role of being a role model as a person in the first place. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, aren‘t all big celebrities potentially in that position, whether they be athletes or entertainers, that people do look up to them?  Don‘t they? 

JACKSON:  Well, they—they look up.  They look at the entertainers.  They look up to politicians.  They look up to priests.  They look up to a lot of people. 

But then, in the end, Michael Jackson is an entertainer.  He is the world‘s greatest, most attractive entertainer. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

JACKSON:  And he has come out of a difficult legal situation.  And he may in fact create a new—an new market.  There‘s almost a new Michael Jackson.  If he comes out of this—if he had been indicted and had to overcome an appeal, that would have been a different situation. 

But Michael—as many people see Michael as having been persecuted. 

And so, he‘ll come out of this seemingly a surviving, persecuted victim.  Some will see it that way.  Others will see him just as the great entertainer that he is.  And Michael, of course, will no doubt come out with new product and new presentations. 

So, Michael does not come out of this crippled.  He is no longer the young Michael who does the ABCs of love or does “Thriller.”  But there is a lot more Michael Jackson left in the entertainment world. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he was persecuted, Reverend? 

JACKSON:  Well, he feels so. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you? 

JACKSON:  He feels that the—he certainly was relentlessly pursued. 

And I need not use that description.  He feels that—I remember when the sheriff went into his house with 75 unarmed—with 75 armed deputies, invasion, occupation, confiscation, press conference, we‘re going to get him. 

Then, before the trial, the media was saying he is already guilty.  And then the DA kicks in.  I mean, so, there was a sense in which Michael Jackson was being overwhelmed by—by the DA and by the sheriff and by the generosity of the judge.  He became a victim at some point in time in this trial.  And the fact that he overcame it gives him a certain resonance. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

JACKSON:  I watched people today when they read the verdicts, not guilty, not guilty.  People just effortlessly began to scream, as if there was a kind of fear he might be convicted, but hope he would be exonerated.  And he was exonerated. 

And if Michael came tonight to Madison Square Garden in New York, or the United Center in Chicago, he would fill them up just by showing up.  That‘s Michael Jackson‘s uniqueness. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Reverend Jackson, thank you for coming on tonight. 

And, Larry Hackett of “People” magazine, thank you, sir.

When we return, Tucker Carlson joins me to preview his new show, “THE SITUATION,” which debuts tonight.  It‘s a good night to debut a show, 9:00 Eastern tonight. 

By the way, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight, we welcome—tonight, we welcome a new member of the MSNBC family.  Tucker Carlson‘s much-anticipated show, “THE SITUATION,” debuts tonight at 9:00 on MSNBC.

Tucker, I guess one door closes and one opens.  It is out for Jackson, in for Carlson. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”:  Michael Jackson debut night. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  No, actually, the news gods have smiled upon us. 

Yes, we‘re probably going to touch on Michael Jackson tonight. 

Actually, I can‘t wait. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the jury?  Did you get a look at their press conference?  I was kind of amazed by it.

CARLSON:  Well, they seem like ordinary, pretty reasonable people. 

I was stunned by the comment one juror made that no normal person would let his or her children go to Michael Jackson‘s house.  That kind of said—that kind of said it all.  I mean, I kept thinking as I was watching them, these people reached the conclusion that the boy in this trial was lying. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Well, if he was lying, why was he lying?  It‘s a pretty heavy conclusion to reach.  Maybe it is the right one.  It doesn‘t seem like the right one to me. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you think it was an Arlen Specter verdict, not proven? 

CARLSON:  They didn‘t suggest that.  I mean, they seemed to feel pleased with themselves, unembarrassed. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  I mean, I think this is one of those verdicts that, six months from now, people are going to look back at and cringe.  Maybe I‘m wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Remember the old expression—I had it growing up—that, where there‘s smoke, there‘s fire?  Does anyone believe there‘s no problem here with the way he deals with kids? 

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know. 

I mean, you know, you admit that you invite boys to sleep in your bed.  You dangle your month-old son out a four-story window?  I don‘t know.  You have monkeys as housekeepers? 

MATTHEWS:  You have slumber parties.

CARLSON:  Yes, it‘s odd.  I mean, it‘s—look.  Yes, I think it‘s strange.  And we‘ve known it‘s strange for all these years.  And it took so long to do anything about it.  And now it‘s over.  Weird.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess the decree was—of that jury was, it‘s OK to be strange. 

CARLSON:  I guess, or something.  It may be years before I figure out exactly what the message is. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, what a great night for you, Tucker.  I wish you well. 

You‘re my pal. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And welcome, by the way, to the club here.  And I also think you got a good news night. 

Anyway, Tucker Carlson...

CARLSON:  Oh.  This is great. 

MATTHEWS:  Tucker Carlson.  “THE SITUATION” is good tonight.  It premieres in one hour at 9:00 Eastern, right here on MSNBC. 

And tomorrow on HARDBALL, my exclusive interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  It‘s a long interview.  It‘s in-depth.  It‘s fabulous.

Right now, MSNBC‘s live coverage of the Jackson verdict continues with

“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN.” END

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