He Never Laid a Glove on Me!

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial

He Never Laid a Glove on Me!

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial

He Never Laid a Glove on Me!
Notes from different corners of the world.
May 6 2005 12:33 AM

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial

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Not a very feliz Cinco de Mayo

8:29 a.m.: Today's vest-armband combo is a wild, technicolor explosion. To me, it looks like a woven, Navajo kind of thing. Others theorize that it's a Cinco de Mayo tribute. I am unable to confirm either way.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

But who's that sitting with Michael's parents? Could it be? Oh sweet mercy, I believe we have Jermaine in the house! Ladies and gentlemen: The Jackson Two.

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Jermaine's get-up is perhaps even odder than Michael's. He's got a silver-button blazer with a pair of thick, wool epaulettes. It looks like the fancy-dress uniform for a high-ranking Fire Department official.

8:37 a.m.: We finish with some odds and ends from yesterday afternoon. The prosecution tries to submit some evidence. Defense attorney Sanger objects and refers to the evidence as "a bunch of junk."

"With regard to Exhibit 413," says Sanger, challenging the prosecution's procedural technique, "this is not how you submit documents to the court."

"I've already admitted 413," says Judge Melville dryly.

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Whoops. Sanger laughs, in discomfort. "I'm mistaken, Your Honor. This is an excellent example of how to submit documents to the court."

10:02 a.m.: Sanger asks Judge Melville to grant a motion for acquittal, based on insufficient evidence. (Here's the text of the motion.) If this happens, the trial is over—and I'll have tomorrow off to do whatever I want. (In my head, I'm already planning a central coast wine tour. A little pinot, a little cab. But I am not drinking any f—king merlot.)

Sanger takes the podium and begins his arguments. He says the prosecution's claims are totally absurd. For example: The prosecution timeline asserts that it was after the Living With Michael Jackson documentary aired—at the very moment when Michael came under intense scrutiny for his, shall we say, unorthodox behavior—that the actual molestation of the accuser first took place.

"I'm not suggesting for one second that Mr. Jackson would ever do such a thing," says Sanger. "But it is inherently improbable that anyone would choose that particular moment to say to himself, 'Well, why don't I molest this child?' "

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Sanger next tears into the prosecution's star witnesses. He says Rudy Provencio "had a bizarre affect for someone involved in such a serious case" and that Provencio was no doubt "lying through his teeth." He concludes by acknowledging that Judge Melville, given the high stakes involved here, has a very tough call to make.

"But it doesn't matter that it's Michael Jackson sitting here, and there are cameras outside and a lot of press attention. As a friend of mine used to say, it's balls and strikes and the court has to make the call."

11:03 a.m.: Sanger wraps up, and Prosecutor Tom Sneddon begins his counterargument. Sneddon is difficult to listen to. His voice is somehow gruff, raspy, and weak—all at once. He mangles his words (a few times he says "beneflect" when he means "benefit"). And his arguments feel haphazard, not neatly ordered like Sanger's were.

Still, he makes his points, and he manages to defend the honor of his witnesses.

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12:12 p.m.: Sneddon finishes and takes his seat.

Literally Two Seconds Later:Judge Melville denies the motion. The trial will go on. No pinot for me.

12:14 p.m.: The defense presentation begins, as they call their first witness: Wade Robson. He saunters in with a smoking hot chick on his arm (she turns out to be his fiancee). She takes a seat in the front row, and he takes the stand.

Robson, now 22 years old, first met Michael when he was five (he'd won a contest). Michael invited Robson to visit Neverland. Robson has done so countless times in the years since.

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Earlier in the trial, a former maid at Neverland testified that she had seen Robson in bed with Michael, and saw the two of them taking a shower together (presumably naked, as she saw their underwear on the floor of the bathroom). On the stand today, Robson flat-out denies that he ever showered with Michael. He says nothing inappropriate ever happened. Did Michael Jackson molest him? "Absolutely not."

12:32 p.m.: Prosecutor Zonen begins his cross with this question: "How many times have you slept with Michael Jackson?"

Robson hesitates. "I've ... slept in his bed ... lots of times."

Zonen: "Did you take my question to mean something else?"

Robson: "Sounded like it."

Zonen establishes that Robson slept in Michael's bed, next to Michael (with no other adults in the room), on a regular basis from age 8 to age 13. Robson says he sees nothing inappropriate about this.

It seems to me that this testimony cuts both ways. On the one hand, it's not putting Michael in a wonderful light. The jury must find it highly suspicious that Michael invites these young boys (lots of them—and never girls) to sleep in his bed night after night, then loses interest when the boys hit puberty. On the other hand, Robson denies there was molestation. This hurts the prosecution's case in a fundamental way. They can't send Michael Jackson to jail just for sleeping next to little boys. Also, Robson comes off as a smart, well-adjusted young man. (And one with a smoking-hot fiancee, for what that's worth.) Whatever happened at Neverland, it seems like he came out of it fairly unaffected.

1:02 p.m.: Zonen is still incredulous that Robson finds nothing inappropriate about the bed arrangement. He steps up the fight, bringing out items of evidence seized from Neverland—including two books (Boys Will Be Boys and The Boy: A Photographic Essay) with pictures of nude little lads. Zonen notes that these boys are about the same age that Robson was, back when he was sleeping in Michael's bed.

"Would you be concerned about letting your own child sleep in a bed with a 35-year old man who possessed this kind of material?" Zonen asks. Robson says no, because he thinks these are art books and not pornography. (I looked at a small subset of photos from The Boy that I found online, and it seems at least possible to make this argument. I guess.)

1:32 p.m.: After a short break, Zonen hauls out big piles of adult material—both gay and straight—that were seized from Neverland. He asks Robson to read a magazine title. "Double Dicking Caroline," drawls Robson, with a smile in his voice. Zonen asks him to flip through some other porn mags. "I've never had a roomful of people watching me do this," says Robson. He gets a decent-sized laugh from the courtroom.

Zonen asks yet again whether Robson would be reluctant to let a young boy sleep in the same bed as a man who owned this trove of this material.

"Maybe if it was someone I didn't know," says Robson. "But not Michael."

1:53 p.m.: The defense calls Brett Barnes. He's got pretty much the same story to tell as Robson. He slept in Michael's bed, with Michael, all the time. Nothing untoward ever happened.

Barnes, now 23, flew all the way from Australia to testify. When asked if Michael molested him, he barks out, "Absolutely not, and I can tell you right now I wouldn't be here if he had."

2:27 p.m.: Court wraps up for the day. It hasn't been a thrill, listening to people argue about whether little boys got molested. But then I remember: Tomorrow may well bring with it ... Macaulay Culkin! (Mouth involuntarily gapes open; palms press to cheeks. Never stops being funny.)