The Porn They Found at Neverland

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial

The Porn They Found at Neverland

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial

The Porn They Found at Neverland
Notes from different corners of the world.
March 24 2005 1:24 AM

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial



8:18 a.m.: Michael is on time and looking good. Today's armband: Blue-and-silver stripes. How many of these armbands does he have, I wonder? His collection seems inexhaustible. If I'm able, I will try to shout out a few armband-related questions as Michael leaves the courthouse this afternoon.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a senior writer at Slate, where he’s been a contributor since 1997. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

8:30 a.m.: The jury is held out of the room, as the lawyers argue over evidence seized from computer hard drives at Neverland. The defense team claims this stuff (mostly porn) shouldn't be admitted. Much of it was downloaded in 1998, long before the time period at issue here.


The prosecution, of course, wants this stuff allowed in—both because it corroborates the kids' testimony that MJ showed them porn on his computer and, more broadly, because it makes MJ look like a porn hound. "We've got numerous hits to," intones Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss, checking his sheaf of notes. "Also" Intriguingly, he mentions that there's other material downloaded from This seems to be a harmless adoption site, but in this context it takes on some sinister overtones.

Judge Melville ends up siding with the defense, and he bars the evidence. No Teen Steam for the jury today, sadly.

9:53 a.m.: The jury is brought in. The prosecution calls Det. Robert Cooley, who answers lots of boring chain-of-custody questions. Did you put the seized material into the brown paper evidence bag? Yes. Did you then seal the bag and mark it with your initials? Yes. Are those your initials that you see now on the bag before you? Yes. And so on.

10:01 a.m.: The Mez begins his cross. And he's challenging the chain of custody! It seems the detective did not precisely record which investigators handled the evidence. I simply can't imagine the jury will be swayed by this (does anyone suspect that the cops planted porno mags at Neverland?), but I have to admire Mesereau for trying. Here we thought we were in for another procedural snoozefest, and The Mez is giving the witness the full treatment. I love this guy!


11:04 a.m.: The prosecution calls Det. Craig Bonner. Looks to be more chain of custody stuff. There's a big box of papers. And now they're flipping on the overhead projector. And hello—we've got porn, people! There's nothing like a wall-sized beaver shot to wake up the courtroom.

I'd thought this morning's arguments had meant there would be no porn viewing. But that fight was over computer stuff. This here is the old-fashioned kind of porn: girlie mags. They were seized from the Neverland Ranch during the November 2003 raid. And now the prosecution is showing us all of them, projecting their covers onto the screen at the front of the room.

Among the collection:

  • Live Young Girls (cover line: "Dildo Delinquents in Sex Toy Orgy")
  • Oui (admirably succinct cover line: "Young Snatch")
  • Penthouse (special issue: "Penis Sizes of the Stars"; unclear whether MJ was featured)
  • Plumpers (the cover shot—which I hesitate to describe—strongly suggests that this magazine features plus-sized women)


There were also a couple of titles that referred to specific age categories. For instance, there were issues of Barely Legal. And there was also a separate magazine called Just Legal. And a third magazine—I'm not making this up—called Finally Legal. (This niche is clearly booming. I'm thinking I may launch a few titles myself. So far I've come up with At Last, Legal and Not Illegal—But Only by the Very Slimmest of Margins.)

There were two other age-based magazines: 44 Plus and Over 50 (cover line: "Bambi Joins the Swing/Swap Lifestyle at Age 53"). I must say, it puzzled me that the prosecution would include these in the evidence. This case rests on whether Michael is sexually attracted to preadolescent boys. Yet these magazines suggest that he's way into older ladies. What gives?

Ah, OK, here comes the little-boy-related evidence: Apparently, detectives discovered a framed photograph of Macaulay Culkin displayed "on a piece of furniture in Mr. Jackson's bathroom."

Now, I also have a framed photo of Macaulay Culkin in my bathroom, so this, in itself, did not strike me as particularly odd, but—Kidding! Is it just me, or is this off-the-charts bizarre? There was also some writing on the photograph, but we've not yet been told what it says. And here's the kicker: In Jackson's bedroom closet, next to a bottle of Jack Daniels, they found what appears to be (this is my own assessment, based on the evidence photo) a Macaulay Culkin doll from the Home Alone days, still in its original box. Freaky-deaky.


1:38 p.m.: The prosecution calls Dr. Antonio Cantu, a Secret Service scientist specializing in fingerprint detection. Dr. Cantu proceeds to bore the crizzap out of the courtroom. I'm sure some people could make this stuff sound fascinating, but this dude is just droning on. Ultraviolet light. Water-soluble amino acids. Identifiable lipids. The only time the court perks up is when Cantu says, of a technique called superglue fuming: "It's a process you'll occasionally see on CSI."

They should have just brought the cast of CSI into the courtroom to give demonstrations and explain the techniques. I'm pretty sure the jury would have paid them more attention than they're paying this actual scientist, and would have given the forensic testimony far more weight.

Even Brian Oxman (Michael Jackson's personal attorney) seems to be getting bored by this and begins to slump in his chair.

2:32 p.m.: Oxman slumps a lot further. Oh, my; Oxman is not tired—he is seriously ailing. Officials clear the courtroom and call in an ambulance. The last we see of him, he's being carted off on a stretcher, though he looks relatively alert and stable. (Later, reports indicate that he should be fine.)

Because of the hubbub, though, I don't get to shout my armband questions. They'll have to wait for tomorrow.