Hard News by Russell Brown

But hardly innocent either ...

Michael Jackson has been found not guilty of a set of child molestation charges, and perhaps that was inevitable, given the huge doubt exposed in his trial as to the character of the accuser's mother in particular. But it would take an appalling effort of denial to still believe, as many will, that he is the innocent, the eternal child.

Jackson's private quarters - the supposed haven for children - was groaning with pornography when police raided in November 2003.

In his bedroom - where, according to evidence, he shared a bed with the same child every night for a year - the only videos were four Barely Legal DVDs and a Hustler documentary. Copies of Barely Legal and other magazines were found in the same nightstand as a picture of and emails from his accuser, and also at the foot of Jackson's bed and in a briefcase in the room.

There was (along with booze) porn in the bathroom too: including an "art" book called The Boy: A Photographic Essay (I Googled the book title and it does indeed appear to be considered a classic amongst fanciers of child erotica - and, no, I am not linking to those sites.). There was porn in his den and in another closet.

None of the material was illegal, but that's hardly the point. What kind of person takes other people's children into such an environment? And would you let Michael Jackson sleep with your son? As one of the jury said in an intriguing press conference after the verdict: "What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen?"

When the jurors were asked which of the 140-odd witnesses they found credible, several named Jesus Salas, Jackson's former house manager, and Kiki Fournier, the housekeeper. This was fascinating: Salas' evidence was of seeing Jackson emerge from his wine cellar with three children who appeared to be drunk, and that Jackson drank heavily and frequently in the presence of various children. Fournier undermined the accusers' claims at several points, but also said she had seen other children in Jackson's care apparently drunk "three or four times".

One thing was clear: most of the jurors clearly did not like the accuser's mother, Janet Arvizo; her stint on the witness stand appears to have hugely damaged the prosecution. But they emphasised that they paid close heed to hard evidence and the stipulation of "reasonable doubt". On the evidence, they may well have been correct to find Michael Jackson not guilty. But on the same evidence, it would be difficult for anyone to really think him "innocent".