Down To Wire In Jackson Case

Michael Jackson departs the Santa Barbara County Courthouse following proceedings in his child molestation trial Thursday, May 26, 2005 in Santa Maria, Calif. (AP Photo/Hector Mata, Pool)
Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for CBS News and

Imagine yourself in a small boat on the ocean, bobbing up and down between the swells. One minute you are up on a crest. The next minute you are down in a trough. One minute you can see the horizon. The next you see nothing but a wall of water. That's what it's like covering the Michael Jackson molestation and conspiracy trial as it nears its dramatic conclusion.

Jackson is up. He is down. He is certain to be acquitted of all but the least serious charges. He is a cinch to be led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon did a solid job of presenting evidence against Jackson. Sneddon is the biggest boob to grace a California courtroom since Marcia Clark.

Like music or art or wine or movies, where this case now stands – what Jackson's fate is likely to be – is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

For example, after months of relentless doubt about the strength of Sneddon's case, the buzz here in lovely Santa Maria is that Jackson now is in big trouble. Why? Because last Friday jurors saw a videotape of an interview between the police and the alleged victim in the case, a video that in the eyes of most court watchers here cast a completely new and entirely positive light upon the credibility of Jackson's accuser. Whereas the young man was surly and contentious and not a little unbelievable on the witness stand a few months ago, he was sad and not a little sympathetic on the videotape.

Compounding this "evolving" impression of the state of the case is the fact that Jackson's attorneys chose not to respond to the introduction of the videotape into the trial. They had threatened last week to call back to the witness stand their client's accuser to try to offset the damage done by the videotape. But then they changed their minds and simply rested the case with the videotaped testimony left unanswered by Team Jackson. The defense is off-balance! the spinsters breathlessly declared. Reeling! A body blow!

Conventional wisdom, whatever that means, now sees the videotape as a "game-changer" that may have saved the prosecution's case. This is from the same folks who weeks ago were laughing about how badly prosecutors were being routed by the defense. I'm throwing stones at myself, too. I am one of the bloviators and I have spoken and written things during the course of this trial that, in retrospect, seem relatively quaint. Mostly that's because trying to evaluate which side is "winning" and which side is "losing" during the course of a trial is like trying to gauge who is winning a chess match without being able to see the board or talk to the players.