MERRILLVILLE | Aphrodite Jones, a veteran crime reporter and best-selling author, sat in a California courtroom in 2005 during Michael Jackson's trial on molestation charges and said she watched the King of Pop wither before her eyes.
Jones is one of the featured personalities at the MJ Fanvention that continues through Sunday at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville. Her eighth book, "Michael Jackson Conspiracy," was published this month in time for Jackson's birthday celebration and what she said is vindication for the sensitive and talented artist.
From 11 a.m. to noon today, Jones will talk about the 2005 courtroom drama and the role the media played in shaping opinions about the performer before and after the trial. The trial was based on accusations by then-13-year-old Gavin Arvizo, a cancer patient whom Jackson helped.
The genesis of the media feeding frenzy began with a documentary by English media company Granada Television titled "Living with Michael Jackson," Jones told the audience at a kickoff reception Thursday. British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Jackson and the Arvizo family extensively.
The program was broadcast in the U.S. on Feb. 6, 2003.
After the broadcast, Gavin Arvizo claimed Jackson molested him.
Jones said Thursday that during today's presentation she plans to show a tape of Arvizo being questioned at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department prior to the district attorney filing charges against Jackson.
On the tape, Jones said, it is obvious the boy is being coached by police officers.
"Two jury members told me after the trial that the jury reviewed that tape three or four times, and they could tell the boy was lying from his body language and actual answers. That's what I came up with, too," said the host of the Discovery Channel's "True Crimes" TV show.
As a member of the media covering that trial, Jones doesn't excuse herself from the condemnation she expresses in her book.
"I was part of that conspiracy. I went to see him fry," Jones said. "Even when I heard the testimony from people like Chris Tucker, Jay Leno and George Lopez that Michael was innocent, I believed him to be guilty."
Jackson was acquitted of all charges June 13, 2005.
But the trial left Jackson a haunted, broken man, Jones said.
The Michael Jackson who wowed the world with his talent was the man Jennifer Batten said she knew and remembers fondly.
A guitarist for Jackson during three tours from 1987 to 1997, Batten was on hand Thursday at the reception.
She said working with Jackson during the "Bad," "Dangerous" and "History" tours "was like a paid vacation. It was nothing but fun."
Although he was fun to work with, she said, Jackson always wanted to please his fan and hold himself to high standards.
"He wanted the songs (performed on the tours) to sound like the records," Batten said.