Jackson Vs. the State of California
updated 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
That determination will come in handy because his legal battle is likely to be long and bruising. Prosecutor Tom Sneddon has assembled a case against Jackson, 46, that will draw on a considerable body of circumstantial evidence but whose centerpiece will be the direct testimony of the accuser, who is now 15 and a recovering cancer patient. If convicted, Jackson could be sentenced to more than 20 years in jail. That is not to say, however, his case is a slam dunk. "If the prosecution had a perfect case," says Ruth Jones, a professor at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, "there would have been a plea bargain."
For both sides, jury selection—which is expected to take at least three weeks—is fraught with uncertainty. Santa Barbara County is predominantly Latino and white with many socially conservative, blue-collar workers, a demographic that may not be ideal for Jackson. Still, says Hammer, the pressure in selecting jurors is mostly on the prosecution, which needs 12 "guilty" votes to convict. "The prosecution has to get this 100 percent correct," says Hammer. "That's how high the stakes are."