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S1: Episode 8. The Arvizo Allegations Part 2--The Family Testimony



The Michael Jackson criminal trial begins in February 2005, with the Santa Maria courthouse overwhelmed by the massive media presence covering the proceedings. The lawyers on both sides present their opening statements, and then the prosecution starts calling their approximately 87 witnesses. The focus of Part 2 is coverage of the Arvizo family testimony, highlighting the cross examinations that discredit their accounts. You'll hear from the accuser, Gavin Arvizo; his brother, Star; his sister, Davellin; and his mother Janet.



All testimony referred to in this episode can be found here

Trial transcripts were sent to the Reflections on the Dance website by Jackson’s attorney Tom Mesereau.


News article on Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon

Article states that Sneddon is arguably the most powerful man in the county.



Aphrodite Jones book, Conspiracy, about her coverage of the trial



Prosecutor Ron Zonen considered the best trial attorney in Santa Barbara



Background on well respected Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss



Tom Mesereau on the importance of attorney Susan Yu as part of Jackson's legal team

(approximately 1hr into podcast interview)



Articles about former Jackson attorney Brian Oxman:

Source 1

Source 2

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Oxman was one of the reportedly self-promoting hangers-on that Tom Mesereau worked to remove from Jackson's team.



How long is the average criminal trial?

Source 1

Source 2

Source 3

The average criminal trial is about 5-10 days compared to the 4 months of Jackson's trial.



Length of OJ Simpson Trial



Number of witnesses for prosecution and defense about 130



Martin Bashir documentary, Living with Michael Jackson



Fox Rebuttal documentary

Entitled Take Two, The Footage You Were Never Meant to See. This is the footage that Martin Bashir cut from his own documentary, and reveals his deceptive tactics when filming Michael Jackson.



Gavin's sister Davellin's testimony:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Much of her testimony will contradict the consistent testimony from many other witnesses, such as being seen around Neverland with many others, versus her own testimony that she was always alone and scared. Davellin claims she only ever had alcohol when Jackson gave it to her, which contradicts the flight attendant's testimony that she served Davellin alcohol on the flight back from Miami. Daveliin admits to lying to the social worker. She says all the wonderful things she said about Jackson in the rebuttal interview were true, despite her other testimony that she saw Jackson ply her brother with alcohol and touch him inappropriately. She claims feeling fear since the very first day at Neverland, but somehow she's sincere in her praise of Jackson weeks into her stay.



Gavin's brother Star Arvizo's testimony:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Star contradicts his Grand Jury testimony when he testifies that he didn't know where the wine cellar key was. He claims to not be talking about Michael Jackson in his rebuttal interview even though he says the name Michael, and the entire interview is all about Michael. Star admits to lying in the JC Penney lawsuit. He contradicts himself, sometimes saying his praise for Jackson was genuine, and at other times saying he was lying. He admits to being caught in Jackson's room when he wasn't supposed to be there. He contradicts himself by first claiming Frank Cascio was threatening him and Gavin not to reveal Jackson's abuse when they went to do the rebuttal interview, but in later testimony says no molestation occurred until after the interview. He says that Jackson didn't let him know the time at Neverland, but admits on the stand that there were clocks everywhere telling him the time. His claim of not being to hear the alarm upstairs in Jackson's suite will be proven false by alarm testing evidence.



Gavin Arvizo Testimony:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Gavin says he was angry that Jackson was avoiding them after their first trip to Neverland and felt betrayed by this evasiveness. Gavin claims Jackson never helped him regarding his illness, contradicting all of Gavin's cards and letters to Jackson, thanking Jackson for all the help he gave him. Gavin testifies that Jackson was the one who called them to come to Miami; however, Chris Tucker will later testify that it was Gavin who first reached out to him to take the family to Jackson. Gavin in his police interview says he didn't drink with Jackson a lot but on the stand says he drank with Jackson every night. At one point Gavin says he told his mother about the drinking, but at another point denies telling her about the drinking at all. He testifies that he was having fun at Neverland, but at other times claims to have been scared and threatened by being captive there. Gavin claims he never was inside Jackson's bedroom when Jackson wasn't there, which contradicts many other witnesses, including his brother. With regards to Gavin's rebuttal interview in which he's praising Jackson, Gavin testifies that sometimes he was being truthful about the nice things he has to say, and at other times Gavin says he was lying. Gavin contradicts his earlier police testimony by saying the molestation happened after the rebuttal and social services interviews.



Janet Arvizo testimony:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Janet testifies that she never asked anyone for money, contradicting multiple witnesses who said she asked them for money. She claimed to have stayed in her room the entire time she was at Neverland and that she was kept from her kids, contradicting multiple other witnesses who saw Janet in the main house for dinners with her family, and in the theater with the boys. She admits she used funds raised for Gavin's illness for non-medical purposes. Janet admits to lying for financial gain in the JC Penney lawsuit. She tells bizarre stories, such as that the JC Penney guards were doing belly flops on her in the parking lot and twisted her head around like an exorcist, even though her booking photo shows her without bruises and her hair combed and fixed nicely, and she denies needing any medical care. Janet says completely contradictory things about the way she praises Jackson in the interviews. She says the Miller interview was genuine, but 4 days later she had to be forced to use a script to say nice things, and even the laughter was scripted. But then she says she did believe all the nice things she said, even though at the same time she claims she was scared and imprisoned by Jackson.



Videotaped Interview with the Arvizo family:

This interview was made weeks into the Arvizo's stay at Neverland, and their willingness to say such wonderful things about Jackson contradicts their later claims that they were afraid for their lives and forced to make the video. The Arvizos later claim the interview was completely scripted, and they made it under duress. The prosecution will claim that Jackson held the Arvizos captive to force them to make this interview, which never actually made it in time to include with the rebuttal footage Jackson's handlers sold to Fox. However, they also claim that most of what they said was actually true. But how could the wonderful things about Jackson be true if they say Jackson was plying Gavin with alcohol and inappropriately touching him for weeks before this interview? The family's claims against Jackson are rife with contradictions.

Part 1

Part 2

Watch how surprised Janet is when she finds out the camera was rolling when making disparaging remarks about Bashir. This contradicts her claim that everything was scripted. Also notable is when Janet tells Gavin to sit-up straight, when they think they are off-camera, and Gavin responds quickly. I found this reaction interesting, as the testimony of many witnesses revealed how Gavin did not respect the authority of anyone but his mother--not teachers, not flight attendants, not security guards, not celebrities.



Child Welfare report clearing Jackson of any wrongdoing

In the social services report, the Arvizos make many statements that contradict their later testimony. Davellin Arvizo admits she lied when she told the social worker that she brought her girlfriend to Neverland. She also said she lied to the social worker when she told her that her mom was always at the main residence:



Testimony by social services worker who interviewed Gavin Arvizo

This interview took place during the time when Gavin was staying at Neverland. The interview, however, was at Janet Arvizo's fiance's house. Gavin told the social worker wonderful things about Jackson, and said he didn't do anything inappropriate. The Arvizo family all praised Jackson, even though later they will say they were frightened and threatened by Jackson at this time. The social worker testified that she saw no signs of abuse like being withdrawn.

Carole Lamere witness statements about Davellin Arvizo

Davellin stayed with Lamere that summer when Gavin first met Jackson in 2000. Lamere said Davellin told her that her mother was planning to claim Jackson showed her boys pornography even before they went to his house. She also said Davellin told her that her mother was the one who was physically abusive to her husband and kids, but the kids were told to blame the father. Davellin also allegedly told Lamere that Janet Arvizo instructed her kids to shoplift. Lamere said Janet Arvizo refused to put Gavin's fundraiser money in a trust.



Larry Nimmer alarm testing from Neverland

Larry Nimmer was hired to film the testing of Jackson's alarm system for the defense. You can see some of that filming around 13 minutes into this video. This video contradicts Star Arvizo's testimony that you couldn't hear the alarm upstairs.



Video footage of the many clocks at Neverland

This discredits the Arvizos testimony that they were prevented from knowing the time during their stay.



Witness statements that include accounts about Star Arvizo

Rijo Jackson reports that when Jackson wasn't around Star stole wine that was meant for Jackson, and took it to drink it with his brother Gavin. He said he saw the Arvizos with their own porn magazines, and saw them watching porn in their guest suites. He said he saw the Arvizo boys steal money from the employee break room, and he said the boys asked his cousin to take off her bathing suit top. He saw the boys rifle through the drawers everywhere on the property, looking for something to take. He saw the boys go into Jackson's room numerous times when Jackson wasn't there. He recalls many destructive incidents by the Arvizo boys. Simone Jackson also saw the Arvizo boys going in and out of Jackson's room when he wasn't there. She saw the boys steal money from Jackson's desk and said they were very destructive around the property. She said they cursed all the time and heard them sneering and laughing about Jackson in a profane manner behind his back.

Chris Tucker calls Star very cunning.


AP news report covering some of the contradictions in Star Arvizo's testimony



Clip of Gavin Arvizo in the rebuttal interview, praising Jackson

(around minute 1:00)



Sworn statement by Gavin's father David Arvizo from October 2004

Gavin's father gives a statement, saying he didn't believe Gavin would put up with molestation quietly. He talks about how the mother would coach the kids in her schemes. This includes David Arvizo's account of how Janet Arvizo had her kids rehearse stories over the months before Janet filed assault charges against the JC Penney guards.


Testimony by Chris Tucker

Tucker states that it was Gavin who first reached out to him after the Bashir documentary led to the media frenzy, refuting Gavin's testimony.



New York Times article describing Janet Arvizo's testimony

Janet's testimony is characterized as rambling and incoherent, and the author notes how Janet seemed to relish her combat with Jackson's defense attorney Tom Mesereau.



Roger Friedman article on Janet Arvizo testimony

Friedman notes Janet's wild allegations, such as being threatened to be taken away by hot air balloon, being restricted to one meal a day, and speaking to friends on the phone "in code."



Defense motion that includes psychiatrist assessment that Janet Arvizo suffered from paranoid schizophrenia Janet Arvizo's medical psychiatric records suggest possible diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia with delusions.



Compilation of media coverage about the "uncontrollable" testimony of Janet Arvizo

Janet frequently refers to "the killers". There are also audio clips from the social services interview with Janet, and reporting on Janet's perjury and welfare fraud.



Reports on Janet Arvizo's past mental illness

This article reports that Janet Arivzo had 2 prior hospitalizations for mental illness, and notes that she was manic on the witness stand at Jackson's trial.



Prosecutor Ron Zonen's post-trial comments about Janet Arvizo

Transcript from Ron Zonen's speech at the 2010 Frozen in Time Seminar, saying how Janet Arvizo could say or do anything, and that she was uncontrollable.

Here's the video footage of Zonen's speech



American Psychiatric Association description of schizophrenia



Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can increase the possibility the of making false allegations due to delusional thinking: "People with paranoid schizophrenia can get extremely angry and hostile towards others. They may start arguments and make false accusations as a result of the delusions that they experience. Although not everyone with this subtype of the illness may experience anger, many people get very angry and perhaps can even rage." This is an important consideration because of all the credibility issues with Janet Arvizo and her clearly disturbed mental state. She has been described as going from rage to completely listless within a short time period.



How schizophrenia factored into the McMartin Preschool allegations

The mother's schizophrenia is thought to be behind the bizarre charges of sex abuse by a childcare worker against her son.



Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia is considered by forensic psychologists to be one of the pathways to false allegations



Gavin Arvizo's father's witness statement

David Arvizo gives an accounting of Janet's abuse against the whole family. He says for many years she was always talking about threats against her life by "the killers" just like in the Jackson case. He says the kids were out of control, unless Janet was around to discipline them. She was the only one who could control them, because they were afraid of her.



Frank Cascio's account of the Arvizos' first Neverland visit

Frank describes how Janet Arvizo was pushing to have her sons stay in Jackson's suite, contradicting Janet Arvizo's testimony in which she says she didn't say one word on that first trip to Neverland.



Jackson's investigator, Brad Miller, on his interview with the Arvizos

(starting at about 4:48 in the video)

This interview of the Arvizos took place a few weeks into their stay at Neverland, while they were visiting Janet's fiance's house. Miller says he was warmly greeted, and the family all said nice things about Jackson. He says Janet was upset she didn't get anything from the Bashir documentary:



Testimony by Azja Pryor, friend of the Arvizos

Pryor says Janet Arvizo was excited about going to Brazil, and invited Pryor to join. She says Janet decided not to go when she found out that Michael Jackson wasn't going. Pryor says that Janet complained that Jackson's associates were making a lot of money on the rebuttal footage and her family wasn't getting anything. She also said that Janet told her that "the Germans" were keeping her and her family away from Jackson. This contradicts Janet's testimony that she was being forced to go to Brazil and that she was being kept from her children.



Testimony by the Arvizo's own civil attorney, William Dickerman

Dickerman met with Janet at The Laugh Factory during the time period that she was staying at Neverland. Dickerman testifies that Janet never mentioned being afraid or being held captive by Jackson. Even after leaving Neverland, she still mentioned nothing about threats or fear. Her only concerns expressed to the civil attorney were about her kids photos in the press, and getting her possessions from a storage locker.



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

The Michael Jackson Allegations

Vindicating Michael

Reflections on the Dance

Many of their posts helped to guide the research for this episode.







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