Five things to know about Michael Jackson's 2005 child molestation trial 3 years ago

Five things to know about Michael Jackson's 2005 child molestation trial

Michael Jackson is once again under the spotlight over claims of child sex abuse.

Over nine years after his death, the king of pop's legacy is hanging in the balance as grim allegations of paedophilia come to light in Leaving Neverland.

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The compelling two-part documentary special hears from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both say that the singer repeatedly forced them to engage in sexual acts as children.

It comes over a decade after Jackson was acquitted of molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland ranch in California.

The 2005 trial gripped the world and became a media spectacle. It saw fans from across the world flock to the Santa Barbara Superior County Courthouse to support their idol.

After almost four months, Jackson was cleared of any wrongdoing.

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The alleged victim was a young boy who had been invited to Neverland 

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Gavin Arvizo was a childhood cancer sufferer who was invited to spend time at Neverland at the age of ten.

He said that Jackson had molested him and masturbated in front of him. Arvizo also claimed that the singer gave him and his brother alcohol and showed them pornography.

It wasn't the first time such allegations had been levelled at the star. In 1993 Jackson was accused of child sex abuse by 13-year-old Jordan Chandler. He settled the case out of court for $22 million.

 

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There were multiple charges against Jackson

Jackson faced counts of child molestation, administering an intoxicating agent for the purpose of a committing a felony, false imprisonment and conspiracy involving child abduction, among others.

If the singer had been convicted, he could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

 

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The star was represented by a high-profile lawyer

Thomas Mesereau has defended a number of celebrities throughout his career, including Mike Tyson on a 2001 rape investigation and Bill Cosby in his 2017 sexual assault trial.

 

The case against Jackson was sketchy

There was no physical evidence and so prosecutors relied on witnesses. These included journalist Martin Bashir, who had made a documentary about Jackson; Jason Francia, the son of a Neverland staff member; June Chandler, the mother of accuser Jordan Chandler; and Arvizo him and his sister and mother.

Under cross-examination, Arvizo admitted that he had told a staff member at his school that Jackson hadn't molested him. His mother Janet's testimony, meanwhile, was described as "combative and rambling" and was seen to damage the prosecution's case.

A number of ranch staff members also testified against Jackson, saying they had seen children drunk at the property and had seen Jackson kissing and engaging sexually with children - but some of these staff were discredited after it emerged that they had stolen items from the house.

 

One of the accusers in Leaving Neverland actually defended Jackson

Wade Robson, who appears in the new documentary, was a witness for the defence in the 2005 trial.

Robson, who met Jackson when he was five, testified that he had sleepovers in Jackson's bed but said he had never been molested.

Michael Jackson and Wade Robson

Home Alone star Macauley Culkin was a high-profile defender of Jackson.

He told the jury that he had slept in Jackson's bed a number of times and called the molestation claims "ridiculous".

Comedians George Lopez and Chris Tucker also spoke out in favour of Jackson. Both men claimed that the Arvizo family had tried to extort money from them.

 

Leaving Neverland continues on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.