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AMERICAN MORNING

Michael Jackson Memo

Aired December 10, 2003 - 09:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Santa Barbara County district attorney Tom Sneddon says he is, quote, "discounting" what could be considered another strike against his prosecution of Michael Jackson. A leaked memo from a child welfare agency says the current child molestation allegations against Jackson are unfounded.
Joining us with reaction to this development is CNN legal analyst Chris Darden. He joins us from our Los Angeles bureau this morning.

Chris, good morning. Nice to see you.

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Let's get right into this memo. Now, according to the memo, the L.A. Department of Children and Family Services conducted their own investigation last February, and uses the word specifically "unfounded" when it comes to this specific case of molestation, and this specific little boy. The boy's mother, in fact, goes as far as saying that Michael Jackson is like a father to this boy. The boy's sisters saying she never observed anything untoward happening here.

Give me an overall sense of how you think this will affect the prosecution of Michael Jackson on molestation charges, when those charges are officially filed.

DARDEN: You know, I'd certainly have to agree with those who think that this is quite a bombshell, and quite a coup for the defense in this case. We've all been led to believe that the molestations occurred around February, or around the time that the Martin Brashear interview was aired. This memo seems to address directly those same allegations during that same period of time. And not only do you have the mother's statements, but apparently the children were interviewed and they also said that no molestation occurred during that time period.

So that is a huge, huge, I think piece of information for the defense. Now, can the prosecution get beyond it? well, yes, they can. Children or child victims of child abuse often refuse to admit that they've been abused initially. And that's not uncommon. But I would think that given the stature of Michael Jackson, and the fact that a lot of people are very, very suspect and suspicious about these allegations, will seem to me that the prosecution is going to need some corroboration, some physical corroboration. They're going to need tapes, photographs, letters or writings of Michael Jackson's own hand, some kind of an admission. It will not be enough, in my opinion, to convict Michael Jackson solely on the basis of the testimony of this child victim or alleged victim, and his brother. O'BRIEN: At the same time, we hear from the Santa Barbara D.A.'s office that they actually sort of shrug their shoulders and say, this is not really a significant factor at all. Do you think that means or we should read into that, boy, they have a strong, tight case against Michael Jackson?

DARDEN: Well, I'm not sure what to read into that. Apparently they knew about this investigation, and that's a good thing, and that's why I always admonish prosecutors to take their time in filing charges in major cases like these. You want to be careful and conduct a thorough investigation and learn about these smoking guns before you file charges. So perhaps they've done something to negate the prior statements of this alleged victim. I hope they have, because if they haven't, they are already on shaky ground.

O'BRIEN: So the delay in the charges then, that hasn't surprised you at all? You think that's exactly the right thing for the D.A.'s office in Santa Barbara to be doing?

DARDEN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. You know, there's no reason that they have to rush to file charges. And they should take their time, get all their ducks in a row, analyze all the evidence in the case, interview all of the witnesses, and prepare a trial plan or a prosecution plan, even before you file charges, yes.

O'BRIEN: CNN legal analyst Chris Darden, joining us this morning from our L.A. bureau.

Nice to see you, Chris. Thanks.

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