I am not a lawyer, but as I understand it…
1- Almost. It is a way of ‘not contesting’ the charges but not admitting it. Whether you actually did it is not strictly relevant… for instance, someone who is being framed but does not have the resources to fight an extended court battle might plead nolo contendere rather than guilty as a matter of principle.
2- Like a guilty plea, ‘nolo contendere’ is quite likely to end up in a legal conviction… guilty in the eyes of the law. There are some legal ramifications to the fact that you, as the defendent have not confessed your guilt - like if you pleaded not guilty and lost at trial. But since you’re not contesting, then (normally) there aren’t any witnesses called or arguments made by either side.
3- First off, guilty pleas and ‘nolo contendere’ do result in trials, just very short ones, I think. I’m not sure about the DA… the judge can override either and insist on a full trial, IIRC.
4- As in #2, if MJ pleaded nolo contendere, he would almost certainly have been convicted, sentenced, and been seen as guilty in the eyes of the public, even if he hadn’t admitted it himself. The 10 million was what it cost to establish his innocence of these charges in the eyes of the law. (Whether the public as a whole is so easily won over, i’m not sure.)
Hope that helps. A lawyer will probably be by soon to correct any mistakes I made.
On preview: Hi realitychuck, great minds think rather alike! Are you a lawyer??