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Crime News The Jury Speaks

A Short History Of The Michael Jackson Child Molestation Case

Despite being found not guilty, child molestation charges will always haunt Michael Jackson's legacy.

By Kat George

The King of Pop was first accused of child molestation in 1993, when dentist Evan Chandler said Jackson had sexually abused his 13-year-old son, Jordan. But it wasn’t until 2003 that he was formally charged with child molestation, for alleged impropriety with 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo, a boy Jackson had befriended. Despite being found not guilty, the case would drag Michael Jackson’s name and reputation to a point of no return, and even after his death in 2009, people still question his culpability. In Oxygen’s The Jury Speaks, premiering Saturday, July 22 at 9/8c, the jury on the Jackson case talks about their controversial decision, with the show taking an in-depth look at the verdicts that rocked the world.

It all began with a documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir, in which he followed and interviewed Jackson for 8 months, broadcasting in 2003. In the film, Jackson introduced the Arvizo children, and appeared intimate with Gavin, holding hands while Gavin rested his head on Jackson’s shoulder. They said they were “really close” and “best friends”. The biggest revelation of the documentary was Gavin telling the camera that he slept in Jackson’s bed, while Jackson's slept on the floor. The documentary also revealed that many children had slept in that same bed, including the Culkin brothers, Macaulay and Kieran. Jackson insisted it wasn’t sexual.

The aftermath was brutal, and the public unforgiving. Gavin’s mother said she never gave permission for the broadcast, and Gavin himself said he was unaware the interviews would be published. Michael Jackson was subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, extortion, child molestation, attempted child molestation and giving alcohol to a child for the purposes of molestation. 

In one of the most highly publicized cases in history, Michael Jackson not only faced the judicial system, but the court of public opinion. Documentarian Bashir went on to make another video, recanting his previous assertion that Jackson was “disturbed” and instead praising his father-figure-like relationship with other people’s children. Gavin and his siblings also publicly vouched for Jackson’s innocence. His parents even said the children were never left alone with Jackson. The charges were dropped.

Shortly after, in in mid-Feburary 2003, Michael Jackson planned to take Marc Schaffel and Janet Arvizo (Gavin’s mother) on a trip to Brazil, while the Arvizo family was relocated back in the States, a necessary measure due to the media circus and their new notoriety. But the trip never took place, and it was suggested that the trip was a “trap” to stop them speaking out against Jackson, as he had requested only one way tickets for the family. However, after the trip was cancelled, the Arvizo children returned to Jackson’s Neverland ranch, and stayed there on multiple ocassions. By this time, Janet Arvizo wanted to take legal action against Martin Bashir, and approached the attorney who had helped Jordan Chandler settle with Jackson out of court. Critics suggested Janet Arvizo wasn’t interested in the truth, but rather with a pay day, and to potentially absolve herself for allowing her children to sleep in Jackon’s bed.

In June 2003 the investigation began, and in November that year 70 police descended on the Neverland ranch with a search warrant, along with a public call for anyone else who had been molested by Jackson to step forward. Jackson was in Las Vegas at the time, recording music, and on November 20 flew back to California to surreder to police. He was charged with partaking in lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. Jackson pleaded not guilty to all charges.

He was also again charged with administering intoxicants to a minor. The judge issued a gag order to stop any parties involved in the case talking to the media, but the case was front page news regardless. 2,200 journalists covered the trail, which was more than the Scott Peterson and O.J. Simpson cases combined. 

During the trial, on March 10 in 2005, Jackson was hospitalized due to poor health, and could not appear in court. The judge demanded his appearance, and in what would become one of the more bizarre moments from the trial, Jackson was reluctantly ushered into court in his slippers and pajamas

During trial, Gavin took the stand, alleging that Jackson had masturbated him while the two were both under the covers of Jackson’s bed on multiple occasions, all of them occurring after Bashir’s rebuttal video was filmed. His 14-year-old brother, Star, testified that he’d seen Jackson masturbating himself while Gavin slept in the bed. Star’s testimony was discredited as he said he’d walked into Jackson’s bedroom unnoticed, but an alarm system in Jackson’s house would have been triggered, and it was unlikely Jackson wouldn’t have noticed. Star also changed his story on multiple occasions, further causing confusion. Meanwhile, their mother, Janet, said she’d seen Jackson licking Gavin’s hair on a private jet, when he thought everyone else was asleep, but the flight attendant on the flight who was observing the entire time testified that she saw no such behavior. The prosecution also alleged that Jackson had shown children the homosexual pornography they found at the Neverland ranch in order to groom his victims. There were a lot of accusations, a lot of conflicting stories, and many conspiracy theories tested during trial.

On June 13, 2005, Jackson was found unequivocally not guilty on all charges. The verdict is still controversial, with many believing in Jackson’s guilt.

[All photos: Getty Images]