7 things we learned from Oxygen's Jackson-themed episode of 'The Jury Speaks'
Michael Jackson’s infamous mugshot — and the media frenzy surrounding his 2005 child molestation trial — will forever be burned into the collective pop culture consciousness, but the events of the media circus that accompanied the high-profile court case have lingered in the minds of the 12 jurors who ultimately decided the fate of an icon as the world watched in awe (and, for some, in anger).
Some 12 years after Jackson was found not guilty of all charges brought against him after the family of teen Gavin Arvizo claimed the pop legend had sexual contact with the boy when he was 13-years-old, Oxygen has dedicated the second of its four-part true crime series The Jury Speaks to piecing together new testimonials from the group. Four jurors (Paulina Coccoz, Ray Haltman, Tammy Bolton, Melissa Herard) and one alternate (Joseph Gastelo) gathered to film the docuseries’ second installment, which aired Sunday night and covered the allegations of sexual abuse (Jackson called them “disgusting and false”), how key testimony shaped the jury’s perspective, and the jury’s attempts to navigate public hostility after they reached a verdict.
Here’s everything we learned.
Gavin Arvizo’s video testimony swayed the jury in surprising ways
“I believed Gavin Arvizo at first, but his body language was like, ‘Can we hurry up and get this over with because I want to go eat a sandwich,’” Coccoz said. Bolton continued: “He didn’t seem as distraught as you would think somebody who’d been molested would be.”
While Arvizo’s initial testimony didn’t convince most jurors that Jackson had committed a crime, it was the prosecution’s decision to screen footage from an interview with the then-15-year-old that cemented several panelists’ commitment to acquitting the pop superstar.
“I was strongly influenced by Gavin’s interview with the sheriff’s department,” Hultman said, noting he believed the boy, though Herard actually probed her peers to question Arvizo’s allegations by pointing to a key moment in the clip when the teen appeared to smirk after accusing Jackson of kissing him on the lips. She reportedly halted deliberations to emphasize the expression, which she said indicated falsity in Arvizo’s words.
Public scrutiny led one juror to undergo surgery
Herard was dubbed “The Fat Juror” as media interest in the case ballooned and jurors’ identities were kept secret. She said the run-up to the trial was already taxing, as she believes the prosecution chose her to hear the case because her nieces had previously been molested. In subsequent months, however, public interest in her weight got to Herard so much that she ended up drastically altering her lifestyle.
“Within 18 months after the trial, I went ahead and had gastric bypass surgery and lost all the weight,” she said. “I didn’t want to be known as ‘The Fat Juror’ anymore. It hurt me too much.”
Members of the media knew their coverage was biased from the beginning
“There were so many people. With 2,200 credentialed media there as well… this was a zoo,” former Fox News crime reporter Aphrodite Jones admitted. “There were no cameras in the courtroom, so the media had free range to cherry-pick the moments they wanted to give to the public, so you had a very biased media presentation of the trial. I was part of it. That’s why I can say it. I went into that trial 1,000 percent convinced this man molested children his whole life.”
Contentious deliberations initially resulted in a divided jury
On the initial vote, nine voted to acquit Jackson, while three pushed for a guilty charge.
“He was innocent. Prosecution didn’t prove their case against him,” Herard stressed, a sentiment Coccoz and Bolton — who said those leaning toward a conviction had no evidence to support their case — reiterated.
Herard shared an emotional moment with Jackson after the verdict was read
After Jackson was found not guilty, he shared an intimate moment with Herard.
“[He] turned around and looked right at me, and he said, ‘Thank you,'” she said. “I’m like, ‘I just did my job.’ That’s what I told him: ‘I just did my job.’”
The aftermath of the trial took a toll on the jurors
“The media pressure was such that there was a desire for them to have a guilty verdict, and when they didn’t, it was like, how dare you find Michael Jackson not guilty,” Jones said.
The show then examined the various struggles endured by members of the jury, including familial divides (“I remember my dad, he almost sounded angry, like, ‘I hope you’re satisfied that you let this guy off,'” Hultman recalled), concerns for personal safety (“I was scared not just for me but for my family,” said Herard, while Hultman received an anonymous note that read, “Just watch your back”), and damage to personal property, as someone loosened the wheels on Coccoz’s car after she stepped away from her vehicle.
Would the jurors convict Jackson if given the chance to revote today?
While new information and accusations surrounding Jackson’s personal life have come to light since the singer’s death in 2009 — including character witness and celebrity choreographer Wade Robson reversing his stance on Jackson’s conduct as part of the defense, claiming last year the performer ran a child sex abuse operation — the four jurors featured in The Jury Speaks (and Gastelo, who was not a part of initial deliberations) concluded that, even in the wake of fresh evidence, they’d still acquit Jackson if the trial were held today.
“I think he had a giggly, stupid relationship with children that was misconstrued,” Coccoz said, while Gastelo chastised Robson for lying under oath about Jackson’s conduct during initial court proceedings. “It actually makes me angry because I based a lot of my decision on his story,” Bolton said of Robson. Despite Haltman’s gut feeling that Jackson molested children, he said he supported the jury’s vote, as they were legally obligated to vote not guilty after agreeing the prosecution failed to prove — with certainty — Jackson had committed a crime against Arvizo.