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Jury acquits Michael Jackson 

As a throng of supporters and media swarmed Miller Street in front of the Santa Maria court complex on June 13, the court clerk read the verdict for pop star Michael Jackson: not guilty on all 10 counts.

Amid screams, hugs, tears, and confetti, one fan released white doves for each not-guilty proclamation. Police and sheriff's deputies patrolled the streets on foot while other officers waited on motorcycles at the closed-off intersection of Miller and Cook streets.

At 12:30 p.m., Judge Rodney Melville gave the singer one hour to appear at the courthouse before the jury read the verdict. Jackson, however, was about half an hour late, and the court - along with the world at the courthouse doorstep - heard the verdict shortly after 2 p.m.

The panel of eight women and four men reportedly could not get beyond doubts that shrouded the prosecution's case against the singer. According to media reports, the jurors strove to look beyond Jackson's celebrity status and consider him as an individual citizen. Some reportedly said they had difficulty with the testimony from the accuser's mother and saw her as someone intent on getting money.

The jury ultimately took two votes before acquitting Jackson of all 10 charges related to alleged child molestation and conspiracy.

Before the verdict was released, some fans speculated about the nature of the crowd's reaction. Some muttered about a riot and others said they wouldn't be surprised if there was an assassination attempt. But aside from loud cheering and general jubilation, there were no major riot-like incidents.

Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, reacted quickly to the jury's verdict. The senator introduced a bill to help offset some of those costs associated with providing crowd control over the past 31/2 months.

The bill, SB 827, would reimburse the county for the costs of providing security and ensuring public safety in and around the courthouse.

The state has been asked to compensate local governments in other high-profile criminal cases such as the Scott Peterson and Rex Allan Krebs murder trials. In the Krebs trial, Maldonado helped collect $2.8 million from the state on behalf of San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties for the costs the trial.

"The point of this bill is to help offset the staggering costs the county is facing," Maldonado said in a statement. "This was the state of California vs. Michael Jackson, not the county of Santa Barbara vs. Michael Jackson, and it is unfair to place this burden solely on the citizens of Santa Barbara County. ³


-Andrea Rooks

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