top of page

S1: Episode 11. The Arvizo Allegations Part 5--Hubris & Ratings

In this summary, I posed the following questions: How did police get away with arresting Michael Jackson without interviewing anyone but the accusing family? Why wasn't D.A. Tom Sneddon suspicious of the bizarre and contradictory stories of the Arvizo family? Why was he blind to the evidence that this family's story did not add up? And blind to the family pattern of lying for financial gain and how it might apply to their accusations against Michael Jackson? Why did he feel that it was ok for him to breach the ethics of his profession in pursuit of this case?

Sneddon had been characterized as arguably the most powerful person in Santa Barbara in his position as District Attorney of the county for over 20 years, being re-elected every 5 years. He also was given the moniker "Mad Dog", by his peers, for his overly emotional approach to his job, and was considered to be a prosecutor extremely confident of his judgments.

It's the overconfidence of people in powerful positions that leads them to make biased decisions. Their overconfidence leads them to disregard advice from others, and make less accurate judgments. Power induces people to place too much weight their own judgments.

This research describes how powerful people feel entitled to bend the rules because of their confidence in their own judgment that they are right. Powerful people come to believe the rules don't apply to them because of the righteousness of their mission.

This study indicates that people in positions of high power use more force to get what they want, while those in lower power positions use more legitimate means.

This study describes how those in power are more likely to use stereotypes when making decisions.

Veteran Associated Press Journalist Linda Deutch covered court cases for 50 years, and has won numerous journalism awards including the lifetime achievement award from the Washington Press Club. She attended the trial, and in this interview, she reflects on her experience. She says the case never should have been brought to trial--that the Arvizos set up Michael Jackson, and the allegations were another scam for the family. She notes how the media was out to get Jackson, and were biased to his guilt.

Spilborg points out how Tom Sneddon was so determined to get Jackson that he likely repeatedly suborned perjury to do so. She says the case never should have been brought to trial, and notes the lying by the accusers and former Neverland employees.

Hilden calls the evidence for Sneddon's bias against Michael Jackson longstanding and blatant, and says Sneddon shouldn't have been allowed on the case. She calls unjust Sneddon's actions to bring in evidence of prior charges that never resulted in a conviction, which should be ruled inadmissible.

Law professor Stanley Goldman says he'd never heard of a case in which the prosecution used 5 prior allegations to support their case, but none of these cases resulted in criminal prosecutions, and 3 of the alleged victims testified that nothing happened.

Gallup Poll after the verdict, showing almost half of respondents disagreed with verdict, an indication of the media's guilty bias influencing the public.

Drake on Larry King after the verdict, “I went in there with a courage to convict a celebrity. because I really believe in doing what is right. And witness after witness I was more convinced of his innocence, because of the motivations of financial gain and revenge.”

Pundits were quick to criticize the jury regarding Jackson's acquittals.

Sutton criticized the media’s handling of the trial. He wrote, "News organizations abandon the standards of ethical journalism wholesale for the sake of their commercial advantage. The way the cable news operations have elected to conduct their business threatens the integrity of the jury system itself.Nobody who does not sit through every day of every witness’s testimony in a trial really has an opinion about it worth hearing. [Even then, only those who consider that testimony with the ears of a juror mindful of their oath can speak with real authority]. Everything else is blather — entertaining blather, perhaps, but dangerous, too. If jurors who conscientiously fulfill their oath — as Jackson’s did — then are subjected to contempt and abuse for contradicting the self-interested sentiments of an electronic mob, then who among us is safe?"

Reporter Aphrodite Jones wrote about the pressure from her superiors at Fox News to report with a guilty bias:

Journalist Roger Friedman observed that throughout the trial the press was biased its coverage. When a prosecution witness would testify to something salacious done by Jackson, such as security guard Ralph Chacon describing oral sex, the press would run outside and report it and miss the withering cross examination that devastated the witness’s credibility.

Jury instructions regarding witness lying have modified since the Jackson trial in 2005. At that time, the jury instruction was as follows: "A witness, who is willfully false in one material part of his or her testimony, is to be distrusted in others. You may reject the whole testimony of a witness who willfully has testified falsely as to a material point."

Currently, the instructions read as follows:

"If you decide that a witness deliberately lied about something significant

in this case, you should consider not believing anything that witness says."

"What I’m asking is whether this is still a country where a peculiar person such as Michael Jackson can get a fair shake and be considered innocent until proven guilty … or is this just a 21st-century American barnyard where we all feel free to turn on the moonwalking rooster … and peck it to death?"

Thanks to the following websites for collecting documents and providing case analysis over many years:


bottom of page