updated 6/14/2005 12:12:10 PM ET 2005-06-14T16:12:10

Guest: David Conn, Mickey Sherman, Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson, Tom O‘Neil

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  The day of decision for Michael Jackson, hands held by his fans on the route to the courthouse.  Not a perp walk, but a moonwalk.

Jackson pitches a shutout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not guilty of conspiracy...

Not guilty of (INAUDIBLE)...

Not guilty of (INAUDIBLE)...

Not guilty of (INAUDIBLE)...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Dan Abrams join us from outside the courthouse in Santa Maria on how the defense got an acquittal for a defendant who had admitted to sleeping with preteen boys, and if the prosecution messed this one up.

What‘s next?  Is DA Tom Sneddon a cold man careerwise?  Does Michael Jackson now become a Mr. Las Vegas, or a Mr. Africa?  And could there be a civil trial?

He‘s not guilty, but does it mean anything to us?  Is M.J. another O.J. or not?

And 574 days of this.  The investigation, the warrant, the booking, the toilet, the Neverland searches, the stories, the spokesmen, the gossip, the fans, the hospital trips.  Jay Leno, Larry King, Jesse Jackson, the Doves and the puppets.  All of it, all 19 months of it, condensed into a few minutes.

This is COUNTDOWN‘s special coverage of the acquittal of Michael Joe Jackson.

Good evening.

The charges were different, the public perceptions were different, but considering celebrity, race, location, the threat of suicide, the matrix of crime and fame, the easiest parallel to the trial of Michael Jackson in U.S. history was the trial of O.J. Simpson.  And time and fate being the jokesters that they are, 11 years ago today, June 13, 1994, that was the day that, for almost all of America, the O.J. Simpson days started with the revelation that Simpson‘s ex-wife and an acquaintance had been murdered the night before.

Today, June 13, 2005, was the day that the Michael Jackson case ended with an acquittal so complete that, as he left the courtroom, it seemed to have written amazement even over Jackson‘s face.

As late as 3:20 this afternoon Eastern time, it appeared the jury‘s dogged pace would continue, analysts predicting it might take another day per charge, sometime into next week, before they came in.

Then they came in.  The promised notice to the world of an hour before the verdicts were read came at about 3:34 p.m. Eastern time, 12:34 in Santa Maria.  Jackson then left Neverland Ranch, passing briefly past supporters who had locked arms in a kind of cross between We Are the World and Hands Across America.

By 4:30, it was clear Jackson would not make it by the scheduled one-hour time limit, raising the prospect that he‘d be fulfilling the oldest joke in the book, the man late to his own execution.

But there was to be no execution.  As one fan outside actually released a dove each time the court recorder spoke the words “Not guilty,” 14 doves would be released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We, the jury, in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of conspiracy.  We, the jury, in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a minor child, as charged in count two of the indictment.  We, the jury, in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a minor child, as charged in count three of the indictment.  We, the jury, in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of lewd act upon a minor child as charged in count four of the indictment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He was acquitted of everything except the Enron stock case.  It was a stunning and comprehensive defeat for Santa Barbara‘s district attorney, Tom Sneddon, accused throughout the course of these 500-plus days—of these decades, in fact, of having a personal vendetta against the pop star, something he addressed in a brief statement after that verdict was read.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM SNEDDON, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  Obviously, we‘re disappointed in the verdict.  But we work every day in a system of justice.  We believe in the system of justice.  And I‘ve been a prosecutor for 37 years, and I‘m -- 37 years, I‘ve never quarreled with a jury‘s verdict, and I‘m not going to start today.

My past history of Mr. Jackson had absolutely, unequivocally nothing to do with our evaluation of this particular case.  That‘s been a nice little 30-second sound bite that the media has used to try to justify this thing, but it‘s—it had never had anything to do with either the sheriff‘s investigation or our decision to file.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The second of Jackson‘s two lead defense attorneys, Thomas Mesereau, he of the shocking-white mane, was the clear landslide winner.  He had a brief reaction to reporters as he was leaving the courtroom this afternoon, then summed it up with a written statement made as evening approached in Southern California.

Quoting here, “Justice is done.  The man‘s innocent.  He always was.”

But ultimately, Michael Jackson‘s innocence owes to the comparatively swift deliberations, just over 32 hours‘ worth, of the eight women and four men of the jury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JUROR NUMBER 1:  I actually didn‘t believe we‘d be finished today.  This—I don‘t think anybody did.  I think having the weekend to do some thinking about it helps.  You come in with a clearer mind, maybe, of where you‘re going and what you have to do.

JUROR NUMBER 5:  I think we all just look at the evidence and pretty much agreed.

JUROR NUMBER 3:  We all came in with our personal beliefs, and some of those did differ.  But we spent a lot of time really seriously studying the evidence and looking at the testimony and the jury instructions, and obviously came to an agreement.

JUROR NUMBER 2, JURY FOREMAN:  We looked at all the evidence.  We looked at Michael Jackson, and the first—one of the first things we decided that we had to look at him, it‘s just like any other individual, not just as a celebrity.

JUROR NUMBER 10:  What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen?  Or, you know, just freely volunteer your child, you know, to sleep with someone.

JUROR NUMBER 5:  I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us.  That‘s when I thought, Don‘t snap your fingers at me, lady.

JUROR NUMBER 8:  After deliberating for as long as we did, and emotions everybody goes through, and, you know, just everything, it just—just realized that it‘s done, and it‘s over, and that we all can now go on with our lives.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  I‘m joined from Santa Maria now by one very busy man, Dan Abrams, host of “THE ABRAMS REPORT” here on MSNBC, and also, of course, NBC‘s chief legal correspondent.

Good evening, Dan.  I guess we have the proverbial late-breaking news right there, huh?

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”:  Yes, there it is, “The Santa Maria Times,” ready with the front page, “Not Guilty on All Counts.”  I‘m sure they had a paper made up where it said, “Guilty on All Counts” as well.

But there they are, arriving at the courthouse only minutes after the verdict has been announced.  And while they may have had a paper ready with the words “Not Guilty on All Counts,” I think I can tell you that most people here at the courthouse, I think, are surprised now.  Many people came into this case, I think, believing that Jackson would be acquitted, that by the end of the case, I think many expected some sort of compromise verdict, some sort of hung jury, something.

But in the end, I think these jurors just disliked the mother of the accuser so much that they just weren‘t going to convict on anything.

OLBERMANN:  Distill all of it down for me.  Did the jurors not believe Michael Jackson did any of this, or did the prosecutors merely convince them, or fail to convince them, that he did, or, as you say, did this all essentially boil down to this accuser‘s mother and the extraordinarily bad impression she apparently made on the jurors?

ABRAMS:  A little bit of everything.  I think the reasonable-doubt standard is what won this case for the prosecution, that in order to convict, they had to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that this boy was molested, not the other boys they heard about, but that this boy was served alcohol, this boy was molested.

And I think that they just didn‘t believe that in the end.  Remember, that effectively means 90-something percent certain that it happened.

And I think what many of us thought was going to happen is that the jurors were going to say, you know, We‘re convinced that he molested a child, maybe not this child, and they‘d be unwilling to have him walk.

But it seems that the reasonable-doubt standard, in conjunction with a real disdain for the mother, I mean, talking about—they didn‘t like the way she snapped at them.  They didn‘t like the way she looked at them.  They didn‘t like the way that she spoke to them.  I mean, they really didn‘t like her at all.

And I think that those factors came together, and in the end, these jurors said, Not guilty.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve talked before about how even those seeming afterthoughts, the lesser-offense codas attached to the charges on alcohol, seven, eight, nine, and 10, how even they might have gotten him a fine or sent him to prison, perhaps, or damaged his reputation severely, at least such as it is.  Was it a particular shock that the jury didn‘t even bite on any of those?

ABRAMS:  I was surprised.  I figured there would be some sort of compromise in the end.  And these jurors didn‘t bite.  They said not guilty on the felony and not guilty on the misdemeanor.

Remember, the misdemeanor would have meant that they believed that Michael Jackson served alcohol to a child, but that they weren‘t convinced that he had the intent to molest when he served that alcohol.  Intent to molest would have been a felony.  Merely serving the child would have been the misdemeanor.  In the end, these jurors saying that they weren‘t even convinced that he did that.

But what‘s interesting is that they clearly don‘t trust Michael Jackson either, I mean, one of the jurors saying at one point, So how could this mother have possibly allowed her child to sleep in the same bed as Michael Jackson?  Well, that clearly is saying that I wouldn‘t do it.  She shouldn‘t have done it.  And there‘s a reason for that, because they don‘t particularly trust Michael Jackson.

Nevertheless, they‘re saying there wasn‘t enough evidence to put him away.

OLBERMANN:  I had thought, as testimony had wrapped up, that each side had kind of broadened the playing field, that the prosecution had made it seem as if the distinction between literally sleeping with someone, and having sex with them, didn‘t exist, there was no longer any such distinction.

But the defense had made it seem like however bad Michael Jackson might have seemed, the accuser and the family were just as sleazy or more sleazy.  Did either of those interpretations hold, in your opinion, or was this jury really strict about interpreting the law while it appeared that both the prosecution and the defense were trying to fuzz the law up?

ABRAMS:  Well, I think that if you believe both the things you said, you‘ve probably got reasonable doubt here.  And that is, that you think that it‘s really weird.  You think it‘s really inappropriate that Michael Jackson sleeps in the same bed with children as a whole.

And yet, you don‘t really trust this boy.  You don‘t trust his brother.  You don‘t trust the mother.

I think that a technical legal interpretation of that finding is not guilty, because this jury is only supposed to be deciding, do they believe that Michael Jackson conspired to keep this family at Neverland at a particular time?  Do they believe that he molested this boy on two particular occasions, and that his brother saw on it two other occasions?  That he served alcohol in an effort to molest the child on those occasions?

It‘s not supposed to be about those other cases.  And I think that, again, they strictly interpreted it in that way.

OLBERMANN:  Last question.  Did that newspaper that you have in front of you, or anything that you‘ve heard, suggest whether or not there is a prospect of a civil case in this case?

ABRAMS:  We don‘t know at this point.  If you take the mother at her word, she doesn‘t want Michael Jackson‘s money.  But clearly, these jurors didn‘t take her at her word.  I‘m not sure that we have to take her at her word.

I don‘t know if she‘s going to sue, but certainly her words could come back to haunt her, the words that she used in this case, which is, she doesn‘t want his money.  It‘ll be very interesting to see if she does sue him, how she justifies having said that in the criminal case.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we can always look forward to the prospect of another Michael Jackson trial.

ABRAMS:  Could be more Puppet Theater.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we have the one last edition coming up later.  I‘m sure you‘ll want to stay tuned for that, Danny.

ABRAMS:  I‘m looking forward to it.

OLBERMANN:  Back with a his own wrap-up on this network at 11:00 p.m.

Eastern time.  Thanks for your time now, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Twice he‘s tried to nail Michael Jackson on child molestation charges, and twice now, the district attorney, Thomas Sneddon, has failed.  Did his prosecution prove to have a miserable case, or was there great defense provided by Tom Mesereau?

And fans cheered Jackson as he came home a free man.  But there was no response from the king of pop, no dancing on SUVs.  He seemed to have to be reminded just to hold his hand up coming out of the courtroom, never mind wave it.

What now for Jackson?  Vegas, Africa?  A one-man show on Broadway? 

We‘ll go live to the ranch with the latest.  That‘s next.

This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If Michael Jackson‘s thinly camouflaged ditty about Tom Sneddon is right, then Mr. Sneddon just got a little bit colder.  And if there is a scoreboard out there of the State of California versus celebrities, the celebrities continue to win handily.

Our fourth story on this special edition of COUNTDOWN, the postmortem on the attorneys.  The prosecution served so defeat—complete a defeat, the jury managed to squeeze 14 not-guiltys out of a 10-count case.  As overwhelming as today‘s verdicts were, it is essential to remember that prior to them, few were confidently predicting the outcome one way or the other.  Hindsight, of course, is perfect.  Hindsight has made one thing crystal clear.  When District Attorney Sneddon decided to pursue this case, he did so with an accuser who was saddled with a mother and all the baggage she carried with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SNEDDON:  We don‘t select our victims.  And we don‘t select the families they come from.  What we do is, we evaluate the case.  We try to make a conscientious decision as to whether or not we have enough evidence to go forward.  I‘m not going to back and apologize for anything we‘ve done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She said a lot of things that were maybe a little—they came on very strong, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “Don‘t you snap your fingers at me, lady,” as that woman finished off.

Those jurors complaining about the accuser‘s mother‘s testimony, or more correctly, perhaps, her presence.

To analyze this, I‘m joined now by criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.

Good evening, sir.

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  And former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, David Conn.

Mr. Conn, good evening to you.

DAVID CONN, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Same to you.

OLBERMANN:  Mickey Sherman, let me start with you.  Ten counts, not guilty, four subcounts, not guilty.  He was acquitted of everything except the disappearance of Judge Crater.  How did these prosecutors lose, and lose so completely?

SHERMAN:  Well, as you said, this mother and her son had enormous baggage.  And this was not something that Tom Sneddon know about.  And, you know, I think he does owe an apology to the citizens in this county.  He spent God knows how much money, resources, and efforts on getting 100 search warrants against Michael Jackson.  I mean, is there no other crime left in his area?  That is a lot of money, it‘s a lot of time, a lot of resources.

I think he does owe them an apology.  He couldn‘t make chicken soup out of chicken feathers.  And when he couldn‘t get a good victim up there, he brought—dragged out the other five, and met—and wound up not only did he not prove the other five happened, but the defense brought him three of them saying, Hey, say it ain‘t so.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Conn, it‘s a no-brainer now.  But if she was that much of an albatross, should the case have ever been brought to trial in the first place?  Is not an essential part of being a prosecutor knowing when your case depends on a disastrous witness?

CONN:  Well, a prosecutor has the ethical responsibility to look at

the evidence and decide, is there sufficient evidence here where we can

actually prove the case?  And the fatal flaw of this prosecutor was that he

apparently determined that there was sufficient evidence, despite all of

those problems.  So that‘s a decision he shouldn‘t have made, and that‘s he

·         where he was way off the line.

OLBERMANN:  Mickey, play the defense attorney here in this particular case.  Was it actually tougher than it looked?  Do you have to gently guide the accuser‘s mother towards her own self-destruction?  I mean, could he have—could Mesereau have stepped in at some point and actually buttressed her testimony, or made her look better than she seemed to the jury?

SHERMAN:  No, and oddly enough, Keith, I mean, that was a lay-up for Mesereau.  His bigger problems were his own witnesses.  And that‘s generally the way it is.  If you got a great witness on the other side who‘s got a, actually a perjury conviction, where perjury admission, that‘s great.  He was always going to do well with the mother.

But when his witnesses came around, that‘s when he really shone.  He was able to keep focused.  Plus, he didn‘t overtry the case.  If he lost, we‘d all tonight be criticizing him, only I wouldn‘t be.  But most everybody would be criticizing him for not putting on evidence after that damaging tape.

I mean, we all heard everyone across the world, in Swaziland, saying what a jerk he was, because he should have finished his case by putting on something to rebut that tape.  It turned out it was the right decision to make.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Conn, Mickey Sherman just suggested at the beginning of this that the prosecution owes its own people in that county of Santa Barbara an apology for this.  What is the tenability of Tom Sneddon‘s career as district attorney after such an extraordinary dismissal of all that he seemed to be standing for in this case, and in this—the fact that this was the second attempt at a prosecution in more than a decade‘s time and the same person, same charge?

CONN:  Well, I think the people there are going to recognize that he made an enormous miscalculation, that he brought charges in a case where, many people will say, he should not have brought charges in the first instance.  So I think it‘s very likely that the voters of that county will take that into consideration when they go to the polls next time.

OLBERMANN:  Mickey, give me a quick scoreboard, a final score on the defense.  The result, we know how much of it was their work and ultimately, but what was the degree of difficulty for the defense?

SHERMAN:  It was a high degree of difficulty.  I mean, you have a guy who‘s really creepy.  I mean, you—nobody could identify with Michael Jackson.  Nobody could really sympathize with him.  You could just look at him and wonder.  And here‘s a man who, on videotape, admitted to the world that he sleeps with young boys.  That ratcheted up the degree of difficulty pretty high.

Mesereau was able to get past that, keep focused, and ask this jury to do what they were picked to do, and that is, not base their decision on whether or not they liked the guy, thought his lifestyle was kooky, liked Mesereau, hated Sneddon, but just deal with the facts.

And this jury marvelously did that.  And this was an all non-African-American jury, which I think is very significant.

OLBERMANN:  Now, let‘s finish off with that.  Mr. Conn, what did you think of the jury and their interpretation of the law?  Dan Abrams seems to think that they did it completely by the book.

CONN:  Yes, I think they did a fabulous job.  They recognized that their job in this case was to look at these particular charges, not be biased by allegations of wrongdoing in the past, when we all know that it‘s very likely that if money was paid in the past to other people, it was because there were allegations against him in the past.

Doesn‘t make those allegations true.  They recognized that their job was to focus on the evidence in this case.  And the evidence in this case was clearly insufficient, and could not possibly support a verdict.

OLBERMANN:  David Conn, who prosecuted the Menendez case, thanks for your time tonight.  And criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman, as always, great thanks for joining us this evening.

Jubilation outside the courthouse today as the Jackson faithful celebrated his acquittal.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it ends there, where it began 574 days ago.

Later, you‘ve watched the drama unfold all year long.  And it‘s all built up to this.  Do not miss the thrilling conclusion of Michael Jackson Puppet Theater: The Final Episode, obviously only on COUNTDOWN.  No one else would do this to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Three hours after the acquittal of Michael Jackson, and there has yet to be comment from Michael Jackson or any members of his family.  Well, all that is about to change as we welcome, in her debut here on MSNBC, my new colleague, Rita Cosby, with a world exclusive.  And Jermaine Jackson will be joining Rita.

Good evening, Rita.

RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening.

And indeed, as you point out, none of the family members has commented at all up until this point.

But we have with us now exclusively on the phone, Jermaine Jackson, the older brother of Michael Jackson.

Jermaine, can you hear me?

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S BROTHER (on phone):  Yes.

COSBY:  Hi.  Jermaine, first of all, what was your reaction to the verdict?

J. JACKSON:  I was very, very happy, because we always felt from the very beginning my brother was 1,000 percent innocent.  That‘s what we (INAUDIBLE), that‘s what we always knew, and that‘s what—the jury did a great job.  They did the right thing.

And we‘re very happy.  The family is rejoicing.  And Michael is resting.  And we‘re all very happy, Rita, very happy that—what (INAUDIBLE).

COSBY:  What was Michael‘s reaction, Jermaine?  What—you were near him in the courtroom at the time.  What did he say, and what did he do?

J. JACKSON:  No, during (INAUDIBLE), during the final parts, the judge, he only (INAUDIBLE) in the courtroom, so I stayed out to let my mother and other people go in.  So I didn‘t see his reaction.  But he was strong, he was very strong.  He‘s been tremendously strong.

But I would like to really, really thank the supporters from around the world, the fans and the people who love my brother, who love the family, who‘s always supported us.  Because, like I said from the very beginning, he‘s been 1,000 percent innocent.

And that showed today.  But it was a long, long struggle and a tough road.  But being a family and staying together, we can overcome anything.  And that‘s what we proved.

So thank you and thank everyone who really believed in that.  And we know that the ones who didn‘t, and who said this and that, but that‘s what it‘s about.  We thank God.  We thank the people who have been there and who know who we really are.

And so I‘ll say it again, Thank you to the world, really.  And I really mean it.

COSBY:  And Jermaine, Jermaine, we‘ve heard from the jurors too.  I was very impressed with them.  Here they were, you know, the regular jurors, also the alternates, very thoughtful.  They seemed very level-headed.  What were your impressions of the jury, and what would you like to say to this jury tonight?

J. JACKSON:  Well, I would like to say the jury has been wonderful, and there are wonderful people in this county.  It‘s just the people who are in authority weren‘t so nice.  And you know who I‘m speaking of.  But the taxpayers up here, the people—it‘s a wonderful community.  But at the same time, the people who were put in power, those were the ones who weren‘t so nice and who concocted this whole thing from the very beginning.

But justice was served.  My brother‘s 1,000 percent innocent.  I am the most happiest person.  Also, my son‘s birthday is today, Dante (ph).  He‘s 13.  And that was a special day.  Today is a special day.  And I‘m just going to let Tito say hi real quick.

COSBY:  OK.  Great.  Tito?  Do we have Tito Jackson on?

TITO JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S BROTHER:  Yes.

COSBY:  Tito, what is your reaction?  This is Rita Cosby.  You‘re live on MSNBC with Keith Olbermann.  Tell us, if you could, your reaction to the verdict.

T. JACKSON:  Oh, it‘s a beautiful day today.  Like Jermaine was saying, it‘s a beautiful day, and we‘re just glad all of this is behind us.  We can go on with our lives.  And Michael can go on with his life and do what he does best, and that‘s making good music, making his fans happy, people happy all over the world.  And that‘s what it‘s about.

COSBY:  Now Tito, how tough was this for the family?  You know, we saw pictures of Michael.  He looked so thin.  He lost a lot of weight as this case went on.  This really took a toll on him.

T. JACKSON:  Well, of course, this would take a toll on anyone.  But at the same time, you must remember that he‘s a very strong individual.  But when you‘re faced with such allegations, it would just beat you down in that fact.  So he‘s strong.  He‘s getting his strength moment by moment.  And he knows that he‘s going to be Michael Jackson in the future and do the good music that he‘s always done and make people happy.  And that‘s what it‘s about.

COSBY:  And Tito, what are the family‘s plans tonight?  What are you guys doing, and what is Michael doing right now?

T. JACKSON:  Well, right now, we‘re just trying to absorb everything.  Like I said, Michael is resting and enjoying his family, his children, and just taking it easy today.  Today is a day to rejoice and to just take in everything and have fun, enjoy it, party, have fun, just enjoy your life.  He has his life back, and he can do his thing.

COSBY:  You know, I spoke, Tito, with Jermaine probably about 30 seconds after the verdict came down.  And the first thing Jermaine said to me was, My brother is free.  A black cloud is lifted off of him.  How do you feel?  Do you feel that this has sort of wiped the slate clean for him and he can start fresh now?

T. JACKSON:  I‘m sorry.  I didn‘t get the last part of your question.

COSBY:  Do you feel that now sort of these allegations against him are over with once and for all, he can start fresh?

T. JACKSON:  Yes.  I‘m glad that he‘s got all this behind him.  And I‘m pretty sure that there‘s a lot of people—and there are certain people that doesn‘t report the news accurate for their own personal fame and gain.  And they know who they are.  And I‘ve listened to the news so many times when the news was reporting one thing, and it wasn‘t what was going on in that courtroom.

So now that—some people are probably scratching their heads and saying, How did that happen?  That‘s because some of the media didn‘t give the public the full story.  They didn‘t give them the true cross-examination.  And that happens at times.  But now Michael is free.  He went through the justice system.  And like Jermaine was saying, it‘s a beautiful county out here.  And now Tom Sneddon, he can retire and do whatever he needs to do.  He had his day in court, and that‘s about that.  And leave Michael Jackson—leave him alone.

COSBY:  What would you say to Tom Sneddon—the DA came out earlier today, Tito, and he said that he feels that the case was justified.  He still stands by the reason he brought charges against your brother.  What would you say to him tonight, if he‘s listening?

T. JACKSON:  Oh, hold on.  I‘m sorry?

COSBY:  Tito, what would you say to Tom Sneddon tonight?  Because he said that he still stands by the charges, that he‘s—you know, he felt he did the right thing.  What would you say to the DA tonight, if he‘s listening?

T. JACKSON:  Well, I don‘t have anything to say to Mr. Sneddon, you know?  Nothing at all.  So it‘s a beautiful day for the family.  We went through his justice system, and there were jurors (SIC) on the stand.  My brother was found innocent under 10 counts.  And that‘s that about that.

COSBY:  What do you think‘s ahead for your brother career-wise, Tito?

T. JACKSON:  I‘m sorry?

COSBY:  What do you think‘s ahead for your brother career-wise?

T. JACKSON:  Oh, Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson.  And no matter if he sold 40 million records off of one record and sold 15 off his last or whatever the counts may be, Michael Jackson will be Michael Jackson.  And you can‘t take that away from him.  And who knows what the future is for him.

COSBY:  Do you think he‘s going to be bigger than ever?

T. JACKSON:  He‘s never been small.

COSBY:  All right.  Well, Tito, thank you very much.  We so much appreciate Tito Jackson, also Jermaine Jackson, two older brothers of Michael Jackson, joining us live here exclusively.  Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN:  Rita Cosby, great work.  Tito Jackson saying it was a beautiful day today, and Tom Sneddon, he can retire.  And Jermaine Jackson saying the family always knew he was 1,000 percent innocent and giving the first indication of what Michael Jackson has been doing in the hours since the acquittal, resting.  In Jermaine‘s words, he was strong, he‘s been tremendously strong throughout.

The glory days of the Michael Jackson investigation began not with a bang but with a search warrant and enormous potential, the 574 days since bringing us pajamas, some pornography and that little thing we call “Puppet Theatre.”  The interim has not always been easy, but it has been maddeningly, addictively and guilt-pleasurishly entertaining.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON:  I‘d like to say hello to the people of Santa Maria, my friends and neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Earlier today, at around 8:30 AM, Santa Barbara County sheriff‘s investigators, accompanied by investigators from the Santa Barbara County district attorney‘s office, served a search warrant as a part of an ongoing criminal investigation.  This address is commonly referred to as the Neverland ranch.

OLBERMANN:  The network Court TV is reporting the actions were taken after unspecified charges from a 12-year-old boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  An arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation.

SNEDDON:  Jackson himself, I believe, has said that this was all done to try to ruin his new CD that was coming out, or whatever it is he‘s doing.  Like, the sheriff and I are, like—are into that kind of music.  But...

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”:  In just hours, Michael Jackson could turn himself in to the authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have to tell you, Keith, it‘s essentially boiled down to almost like Elvis sightings at the airport.

OLBERMANN:  We are awaiting the first ever perp moonwalk.  The media circus has begun.

ABRAMS:  This was the scene only moments after he was informed of the charges against him, doing what I guess any criminal defendant would do, dancing on a car.

OLBERMANN:  Jackson arrived 40 minutes early this morning for his arraignment in a Santa Maria courtroom, adorned in a suit and tie and wearing what looked like prescription glasses.

“TOM MESEREAU”:  Michael, you do understand that if you‘re not here by 9:35, the judge will put you in jail and he will forfeit your bond of $3 million?

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  It‘s a miracle!  I‘ll be right over, Mr. Mesmo! 

Tito, get me some jammies!  Woo-hoo-hoo!

OLBERMANN:  So now it‘s time for everybody else‘s nausea, the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... Jackson gave him and his brother alcohol, and that Jackson called the wine “Jesus juice.”

JEANINE FERRIS PIRRO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY, DA:  The “Jesus juice,” the alcohol in the soda bottles...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... the “Jesus juice” in the Coke cans...

ABRAMS:  Did he offer you any, quote, “Jesus juice”?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... interpretive readings from porn magazines, toast the audience with Jesus juice...

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC:  A lot of porn apparently taken out of Neverland.  Can‘t even mention most of the titles.  I think “Barely Legal” is about the only magazine that we can actually mention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Hustler” and “Playboy”...

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Did you attempt to watch pornography?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There was pornography...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He had pornography all over his house.

MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  ... pornography...

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  I look at girlie magazines.  Woo-hoo-hoo!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She is Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife, mother of his two eldest children, and now Debbie Rowe has taken the stand as a key witness in the case against him.

ABRAMS:  Former child star Macaulay Culkin took center stage at the trial.  The 24-year-old “Home Alone” star did as promised, defended Jackson.

OLBERMANN:  Only at the Michael Jackson trial, the word “wacko” finally comes up on the record.  It‘s used by Larry King, who winds up not testifying, after all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m a comedian in my mid-50s, I‘m not Batman, one of several Jay Leno lines in court today which did get a laugh from the audience.

ABRAMS:  There‘ll be no more witnesses or testimony in the Michael Jackson case.  It‘s over!

OLBERMANN:  A jury of Jackson‘s peers—well, four guys and eight girls—will decide whether the superstar walks free or goes to the clink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now more than ever, there is a chance, a good chance that Michael may be convicted.

OLBERMANN:  It has claimed Jackie Stallone, Sylvester‘s mother, owner of noted psychic dogs.  “He is totally innocent.  I got a flash.  He‘s going to come out of this stronger than ever.  This all came to me like a lightning bolt, unquote.  Lightning bolt, eh?  Now I understand everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So what is next for Jackson, this Africa thing, a cozy gig in Vegas, a shopping spree for a new nose, monkeys?  The Jackson future with Tom O‘Neil of “In Touch Weekly” magazine.  Then “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre,” the final episode.  You will not want to miss the shocking conclusion, the amazing revelation.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  O.J. Simpson was acquitted, but if what followed that trial was freedom, you could have fooled him.  After an initial conviction, the greatest comedy star of the silent film era, Fatty Arbuckle, was exonerated in a later trial, but by then, his career was over, his life would be in just a few short years, and his extraordinary fame had already been reduced to that achieved by bit players in short movies.  If he is remember at all today, it is as the first celebrity trial defendant of the 20th century, and few remember whether or not he was convicted.

So our number two story on the COUNTDOWN: What‘s next for Michael Jackson?  What exactly did he win today?  Despite the clear and overwhelming legal triumph, he has had a parade of witnesses who tried to tarnish his reputation.  His health has suffered over the past few months, and he may be even in the throes of even greater financial woe than we know.  He was arguably in desperate need of a comeback before any of this began 574 days ago, but he may now find himself severely hobbled by the residue of a trail that, even with victory, connected him to porn while extending a reputation for eccentricity that may hurt him.  Or maybe not.

Tom O‘Neil is the senior editor at “In Touch Weekly” magazine, has been a regular guest on the show biz aspect of the Jackson case throughout.  Good evening, Tom.

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So he‘s free, but is he still broke?

O‘NEIL:  No, he‘s not still broke.  According to “Forbes” magazine, he‘s got more than $300 million on the plus side.  They put his total assets at $650 million, his debits around $320 million.  So he‘s got a lot of cash.

OLBERMANN:  So what is he going to do now professionally?  I mean, there was a Trump bid to give him his own permanent venue in Vegas, as I recall, and a Steve Wynn bid to do the same thing.  Is that going to happen?  Should Wayne Newton be packing up, making room for Michael?  Sigfried and Roy are out of there?

O‘NEIL:  No, I don‘t think so.  When Donald Trump was asked about this, he said, You know, I have no problem with booking Michael as a concert attraction, if he is found innocent, except I won‘t do it because Michael won‘t show up.  He‘s too fickle.  Michael has a history of, you know, stiffing these concert promoters so badly that just two years ago, he had to pay up $7 million to a German concert promoter.

OLBERMANN:  Jesse Jackson said that Michael Jackson had a spiritual connection to Africa.  Could that be a legitimate possibility for a destination here?  I mean, could he just go there, or could he go open up a Michael Jackson adventure park somewhere in Nairobi or—are we looking at the possibility of a spiritual and professional connection there?

O‘NEIL:  I think he will be going back to Africa, probably to help the poor and suffering there.  Remember, he was one of the major organizers of the “We Are the World” effort back in the early ‘80s.  But I think it‘s around the world, in countries like Germany and Japan where Michael has a huge fan base.  That‘s where he‘s headed.

There are rumors behind the scenes that seem very, very credible that Michael and Frank Dileo, his old manager, are trying to put together a reunion of the Jackson Five.  This was hugely successful in ‘84, and it would be a good way to package Michael in a wholesome family way when you send him back out on the road.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you know, if he needs to get ahold of Tito and Jermaine, I know somebody who can get them on the phone for him.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  If you‘re Jackson and—and certainly, this is a hinge moment in his career.  He wasn‘t doing that well before all this started.  Who knows how he‘ll do afterwards.  But you‘ve just been through this ordeal.  You don‘t know what the price is.  The good—there‘s good news financially.  There needs to be necessarily acknowledged that there‘s some bad news financially.  There have been some people on these loans who‘ve been trying to squeeze him financially.

Would you—if you‘re Michael Jackson, would you try to capitalize on the trial?  Do you write a book?  Do you sell a movie?  Do you make an album?  Or do you just try to hope that people forget this as quickly as possible?

O‘NEIL:  I‘m getting static in this thing.  Ask me the question again, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What do you do now, if you‘re Michael Jackson?  Do you try to take advantage of this situation and make a movie or something out of it, or do you try to get everybody to forget this as quickly as possible?

O‘NEIL:  Yes, he‘s got to redefine himself and put himself back out there as the “King of Pop.”  He‘s got to claim his throne again.  And how he does that is going out across the world, where he has always been, at least lately, more popular than he has been here in the United States.  The problem is, does he have the legal right to do this concert tour?  The German concert promoter who beat him in court, a civil suit two years ago, may still have that right.  They‘ve got to iron that out.  So that‘s why we haven‘t heard anything yet about a formal Jackson Five reunion.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m just struck by the similarity between what Tito Jackson said earlier on our air and what Norma Desmond said in “Sunset Boulevard” about the pictures getting small.  She always stayed large.  And he said that Michael was never small.  Tom O‘Neil, senior editor of “In Touch Weekly” magazine, great.  Thanks for your time tonight.

O‘NEIL:  OK.  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The doves went flying, fans went nuts, an ending we‘d expect from the circus that developed outside the tiny courthouse, especially since we could never see what was happening inside.  We had to compensate for that with the classic “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.”  One final dramatic installment, like the last episode of “The Fugitive,” is still to come.  If you see one cheaply produced TV news puppet show this year, this is the one you must see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s recap.  Michael Jackson not guilty on all counts.  And in exclusive interviews tonight with MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby here on this program, the first comment from his family, his brother Jermaine saying, We always knew he was 1,000 percent innocent.  He added that in the courtroom, Michael was strong.  He‘s been tremendously strong throughout.  And also adding that the jurors have been wonderful.

Tito Jackson suggested Tom Sneddon, he can retire and go and do what he needs to do.  Rita asked him if he‘d be back bigger than ever—that would be Michael back bigger than ever.  And he said, quote, “He‘s never been small.”

All along, we‘ve referenced the collective the activity surrounding around this case—the media, the fans, the protesters—as a circus, 574 days of waiting, occasionally marked by controversy, conflict, bizarre behavior and then more waiting.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN—and that was just inside the media tent and among the puppeteers of “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.”  Thirty-two countries sent TV and/or print representatives to cover every arrival and every departure of the third most recognized person in the world.  Iceland had reporters there.  Iceland!  Al Jazeera cut into its live broadcast today to bring news of the verdict to a waiting world.

But of course, news did not have to travel far to get to those most eager to receive it, the fans.  Hundreds outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, chanting, cheering, crying, releasing doves as word reached them.  And so, at 5:14 PM Eastern, 2:14 Pacific, it all ended.  Or did it?

On the theory that the Michael Jackson trial is not really over until the last fat puppet sings, we‘ll decide when it‘s over.  One dramatic last blast from the cheapest puppet show this side of the North Korean government.  But first, the best of “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Oh, I have a flu-like symptom.  What happened?  Oh, I remember.  It was yesterday.  Don‘t take me to the courtroom.  I need a doctor.  And Uri Geller.  Yes, I remember now.  I got sick.  I better go to the window and wave to NBC.  Woo-hoo-hoo!

I know, I know, I‘m late again.  But I do not feel well.  And we had to met here because my lawyer, Mr. Mesmo, and I needed privacy.  What, you thought I liked meeting men in bathrooms?

What‘s happening?  What‘s all this noise out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There is a fan who has fainted and collapsed on the floor in the back, and they‘ve called an EMT for her.  And that‘s the noise you‘re hearing.

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Oh, man!  Some people just don‘t know how to behave in court.  Woo-hoo-hoo!  It‘s amazing how people misinterpret things.  I mean, that testimony about the head licking.  I only lick children‘s heads to help them stay clean.

Where is everybody?  Woo-hoo-hoo!

“JESSE JACKSON”:  Hello?

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Hello?  Jesse Jackson?  It‘s me, Michael Jackson.

“JESSE JACKSON”:  Michael, let us pray that on this day, at this hour, before I rise to take a shower, I‘ll remember to call the phone company so I can get me some caller ID.

“JUDGE MELVILLE”:  Today‘s jury appreciation week treat is carrot cake.

“JURORS”:  Yay!

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Oh, no!  My chimpanzee housekeeping staff has escaped, and they love carrot cake.  They are very smart.  Their DNA is identical to humans, when you look under a microscope.  And I‘ve been doing that a lot lately.  Woo-hoo-hoo!

Did you hear my interview yesterday?

Elizabeth Taylor used to feed me, hand feed me at times.

Yes, now you‘ll be haunted by that image for weeks.  Woo-hoo-hoo!

“LARRY KING”:  Judge, hello.  What‘s your question?

“JUDGE MELVILLE”:  Mr. King, tell me exactly what you could tell the jury about the defendant, Michael Jackson.

“LARRY KING”:  Michael Jackson?  A star among stars.  For my money, one of the world‘s great stamp collectors.  And he uses Garlique, proven to reduce cholesterol levels by 25 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Culkin, you say that Mr. Jackson never touched you, that the accusation is completely ridiculous, that you never saw him bother any other child.  What would your reaction be then to all these witnesses here who say they saw him touching you?

“MACAULAY CULKIN”:  Ahhh!“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Man, that was predictable!

Guess what?  If I get acquitted—huh?  Oh, yes.  When I get acquitted, I may get a new job.

“DONALD TRUMP”:  Michael, I want you to come and perform at my new hotel in Las Vegas.

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Perform what?  Oh, thank you, Mr. Trump.

“DONALD TRUMP”:  You‘re hired.

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Woo-hoo-hoo!  Woo-hoo-hoo!  Woo-hoo-hoo!  Woo-hoo-hoo!  Woo-hoo-hoo!  Woo-hoo-hoo!

Man, there‘s something wrong with my Woo-hoo-hoo!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I won two Edward R. Murrow Awards.

As we build to the last episode of “Puppet Theatre” and your second great hold-your-breath moment of this long day of Jacksonian jurisprudence, to recap, Michael Jackson summoned to court in Santa Maria, California, after 32 net hours of jury deliberation, at this hour reported by his brother Jermaine to MSNBC to be resting at Neverland ranch.  He arrived at the courtroom in time to hear at 5:14 Eastern the phrase “Not guilty” repeated on all 10 counts, the four appended lesser offenses on the last four counts.  He stoically, quietly left the courtroom, raising but never truly waving his right hand.  He seemed as surprised by the outcome as were the onlookers.

What happened then?  Ah, we can turn one last time to the half-recreation, half-fancification, our eyes inside the courtroom, the final edition of “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

“JUDGE MELVILLE”:  The jury is dismissed with the court‘s thanks.  Mr.

Jackson, you are free to leave.

“‘TITO JACKSON”:  Congratulations, Michael!

“MICHAEL JACKSON”:  Thank goodness.  What a relief.  Now I can remove this stupid mask.  Ah!

“BILL O‘REILLY”:  Tito, hand me a loofah.  Woo-hoo-hoo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I never saw that coming.

Our coverage continues throughout the evening here on MSNBC.  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Stay tuned for the premier of “THE SITUATION” with Tucker Carlson.  Good night, and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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