Michael Jackson: Walking Free

<B><I>48 Hours</B></I> Reports On Singer's Acquittals

Today, the man who was on the verge of becoming the word's most famous felon can now begin the rehabilitation of his career.

It was a thundering victory for Jackson's defense attorney, Tom Mesereau. And it was a colossal humiliation for Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon. The jury took five and a half days to finally reach its unanimous decision.

The verdict finally caps a trial few actually saw but no one will forget. It's a trial, as Correspondent Susan Spencer reports, that flirted with the surreal and remained unpredictable from the start.


It was the most bizarre trial in recent Hollywood history -- fourteen weeks long, a handful of stars among the more than 100 witnesses, and two attorneys locked in battle to the very end.

Back in November of 2003, Sneddon was a very confident man, having just participated in the arrest of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges.

After all, Sneddon had what looked like a sympathetic accuser – a teenage cancer survivor who had appeared with the singer in a British documentary, where Jackson bragged about having the child in his bed.

The young accuser's credibility was the very heart of the case. "He was the only one to directly testified to the acts of the molestation," says former Santa Barbara prosecutor Craig Smith.

But as Smith points out, the boy was hardly an ideal witness: "The accuser was not as certain. Not as positive. Not as unwavering…. He was very vague about it."

"I thought Tom Mesereau did a masterful job of dismantling his testimony," says defense attorney Jen Keller, a close friend and confidante of Mesereau. She says the defense annihilated the child's credibility in cross-examination, peppering the boy about his previous denials that any abuse had occurred.

"You don't like to go after young people on cross examination unless you have to. But Tom Mesereau had to," says Keller. "He was the heart of the case. If he discredited his testimony, the case was over."