Michael Jackson’s defense team came out strong in the final phase of the dramatic trial, according to Christopher Bracey, criminal procedure expert and associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
“At bottom, this case was about the credibility of the complaining witness. At the close of the evidence, it is clear that the defense provided the foundation for a possible acquittal,” Bracey says. “The defense was effective in giving the jurors good reason to be skeptical of the prosecution’s case. No one can predict with any degree of accuracy what the jury will decide. But based upon the evidentiary phase of this trial, an acquittal certainly seems more likely than a conviction.”
While the jury reviews the case, Bracey is available to comment on the trial process; how Jackson’s celebrity status will shape the jury’s consideration of evidence; and the verdict. His current comments on the case follow:
“The defense put on a very good case. Ordinarily, one might expect vigorous cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, while only a handful of defense witnesses receive the same treatment. In the Jackson trial, we not only had thorough cross-examination of prosecution witnesses but we also had 50 defense witnesses appear on the stand in 50 days — and they, too were rigorously cross-examined. The testimony of each of these witnesses went a long way toward rehabilitating Michael Jackson’s character while simultaneously chipping away at the credibility of both the complainant and his mother.”
Ultimately, it was the testimony of comedian Chris Tucker that proved most devastating to the prosecution’s case.
“Tucker’s familiarity with the complaining witness and his mother lent substantial credibility to his testimony that both the child and the mother were cunning, manipulative and untrustworthy,” Bracey says. “Tucker was able to paint this unflattering portrait by recounting his own experiences with the child – who demanded money from Tucker – and by describing the erratic behavior of the mother in Tucker’s presence.”
According to Bracey, the fact that Michael Jackson himself did not testify may have disappointed some of his fans and perhaps a few media outlets. Still, it was the right call – especially since it was Michael’s “testimony” on the Martin Bashir documentary that fueled popular concern about Jackson’s behavior and arguably led to his prosecution in this case.
“The common practice is to not have the defendant take the stand except as a last-ditch effort to stave off a guilty verdict or unless the defendant makes an especially good witness, which was not the case with Jackson,” he says. “The fact that Mesereau elected not to put Jackson on the stand reveals his confidence that the defense team was indeed successful in chipping away at the prosecution’s case, rendering such desperate measures completely unnecessary.”