Originally created 03/02/05

Defense attacks case against Michael Jackson



SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Michael Jackson's lawyer told jurors in a powerful opening statement Tuesday that authorities found no DNA evidence in the entertainer's bedroom to support child molestation charges and had to change the dates of the alleged crimes because the accuser's story changed.

"Mr. Jackson flat-out denies these molestation allegations," Thomas Mesereau Jr. told the jury. "They are false."

When Mesereau finished, the prosecution called as its first witness British journalist Martin Bashir, who made the TV documentary "Living With Michael Jackson." In the documentary, Jackson held hands with the 13-year-old boy who eventually accused him of molestation and acknowledged sharing his bedroom with children.

District Attorney Tom Sneddon then began showing the two-hour program to the jury.

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the boy at his Neverland Ranch in 2003, plying him with alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive. Opening statements began Monday and wrapped up Tuesday with Mesereau's presentation.

The defense lawyer hinted that Jackson might testify in his own defense, but he never expressly told the jurors that Jackson will take the stand. Jackson is not on the defense witness list.

The defense attorney reminded jurors that in detailing specific acts of alleged molestation in opening statements, the prosecutor had given them this "lurid discussion of [filtered word]." Among the allegations Sneddon made were that Jackson told the boy [filtered word] was normal, then reached into the boy's underpants and masturbated the boy and himself.

But Mesereau said no DNA from the accuser was found in Jackson's bedroom.

Mesereau accused the prosecution of changing the dates of the alleged molestation because they were in conflict with an interview between child welfare workers and the family.

He said the boy once told investigators the molestation occurred prior to the Feb. 21 interview, but at another point claimed the molestation occurred after the interview.

Mesereau also said the mother was using the criminal charges to build a civil case in order to get a payoff, and he addressed allegations that Jackson showed sexually explicit images and gave alcohol to his accuser and his brother.

Mesereau said the children were sometimes "out of control" at Neverland and read Jackson's magazines and broke into his alcohol without his permission.

"Mr. Jackson will freely admit that he does read girlie magazines from time to time," Mesereau said. "He absolutely does not show them to children."

Sneddon said Jackson gave his accuser alcohol to make him more susceptible to molestation, and explicit magazines were found with the accuser's fingerprints and that one magazine had the fingerprints of Jackson and the accuser.

Mesereau offered a possible explanation for that, saying Jackson once caught the boy reading his magazines and took them away and locked them in a briefcase.

The boys also memorized security codes and codes used to start amusement park rides at Neverland, so they had the run of the ranch when Jackson was away and could get into Jackson's bedroom without permission, Mesereau said.

At one point a ride operator found the boys at the top of a Ferris Wheel they had started, and they were throwing things at elephants in Jackson's zoo and at people, Mesereau said.

Of the alcohol allegations, Mesereau said the boys "were caught intoxicated, they were caught with bottles. Mr. Jackson was nowhere around."