Video: Experts analyze the case

msnbc.com
updated 6/14/2005 2:00:11 PM ET 2005-06-14T18:00:11

On Tuesday, one day after Michael Jackson was acquitted of all charges in one of the highest-profile criminal cases in U.S. history, MSNBC's Lisa Daniels talked with former prosecutors Susan Filan and Michael Cardoza about what went wrong for the prosecution, and what could have been done differently.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the link above.

Lisa Daniels:  Let's start with you Susan, simple question, what went wrong?

Susan Filan:  Well, I don't know that anything went wrong, per say when you're a prosecutor...

Daniels:  Susan, something definitely went wrong for the prosecution.

Filan:  Lisa, when you a prosecutor, you deal with the facts you have to work with.  You don't make you the facts.  What went wrong is the jury didn't believe the accuser or the accuser's mother.  That's not the prosecution's fault, that's the witness they had.  The jury didn't believe him.  Justice was served, that's what our system is all about.

Daniels:  My theory always was that the D.A. really shouldn't be bringing any cases that they think they can't win.  What do you think?

Michael Cardoza:  Well, I did the D.A.'s job for 15 years and I tried well over 115 jury trials as the District Attorney.  The first thing in the criminal system that happens after the police make the arrest, is the district attorney is presented with the paperwork, with the case, with the victim.  They have to look at that and they, at that time, make a charging decision if they don't think that's enough.  They send investigators out.

In this case, Tom Sneddon did pick his victims because he could have rejected this case and instead no, the victim of the alleged victim, in this case, the accuser, the accuser's mother, the accuser's family is just not believable.  I'm not going to charge this case, Sneddon made the decision, he brought it to trial, so to say he has to take the victim as they come in is plain and simply not true.  He made the charging decision in this case and it turned out to be a wrong one.  But also, in fairness to him, keep in mind at the end of this trial; there were pundits, saying 'oh they're going to try and get a guilty verdict on at least on or two of the counts.'

So, he certainly convinced some of the people here in the public, he just didn't convince the people that counted, the 12 jurors in this case.

Filan:  I don't necessarily think this jury said that nothing happened.  What they said was proof beyond reasonable doubt was not sustained.  The proof didn't meet its burden.  I don't think they said innocent or nothing happened.  I think they said not guilty by the legal standard.  Those are two different things.

Daniels:  Susan, from listening to what the jurors said, I was so clear from all of them, that they hated the accuser's mother, they hated the accuser's family, they just didn't believe him.  Many of them mentioned that they just didn't like her demeanor.  That she was snapping her fingers at them.  The court questioned should Tom Sneddon have brought the conspiracy charges, which basically allowed the mother to go on the stand and talk to them?

Filan:  I don't know that he knew ahead of time just as bad a witness as she would be, but remember other jurors who were interviewed afterward also said that they did believe in the past Michael Jackson had done some things he shouldn't have done and correctly they didn't hold that against him in this case.

But I don't necessarily think this jury said this case shouldn't have been brought, it was stupid.  What they said was the proof did not satisfy the legal burden behind reasonable doubt.  They studied those instructions; they followed them to the letter of the law.  It sounds like they were a very fair and conscientious jury.  You can't ask for more then that.  It was a fair trial but to say that Sneddon was on a more personal vendetta I just don't think you can go there.

Daniels:  All right, last question for Michael Cardoza.  If this D.A. did not bring the conspiracy charges, do you think that Michael Jackson would have been guilty on the child molestation charges?

Cardoza:  They certainly would have had a better chance, but we're sitting here armchair quarterback in that.  Certainly, the defense was able to get in a lot of evidence about the mother, about the accuser in this case and proved they were plainly and simply bold faced liars so could they have?  I don't think so, we would have ended up in the same place and what Susan said as well, and nobody said he was innocent.  I couldn't agree more but when the D.A. charges the case, they got to look at it with certainty that it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt and that is what they should have looked at with this case, plain and simple.

Before starting her broadcasting career, NBC's Lisa Daniels was an associate with the New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School.

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