Jackson's fate now in jury's hands

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 5.06.05

Santa Maria (California), June 4 (Reuters): Jurors ended their first hours of deliberations in Michael Jackson’s molestation trial yesterday after hearing duelling closing arguments that portrayed the pop star as either a sexual predator or the naive victim of a family of hardened liars.

The jury of eight women and four men met behind closed doors for about two hours before quitting for the weekend and being shuttled out of the central California courthouse in a pair of white vans with a police escort.

Santa Barbara county Superior Court judge Rodney Melville told jurors they remained “the impartial judges of the facts” after the bitter four-month trial.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen urged jurors to cut through Jackson’s aura of celebrity and eccentricity and convict the pop star.

In his final statement, Zonen returned to the charge that the 46-year-old Jackson was a serial paedophile with a history of preying on young boys and sleeping with them.

“In your entire life you have never heard of another middle-aged man doing that. If someone in your neighbourhood were taking a 12-year-old boy into his bed amid a sea of pornography and alcohol, you would be on the phone with the police immediately,” he said.

In protest, Jackson’s sisters, La Toya, Janet and Rebbie, who were sitting in the first row of the courtroom, stood up and walked out as Zonen began.

Earlier, lead defence lawyer Tom Mesereau pleaded with jurors to acquit, saying it was impossible to believe Jackson was the ruthless predator prosecutors charge.

Mesereau said Jackson’s now 15-year-old accuser lied on the witness stand and to police and that the boy and his family had been “swimming around lawyers, swimming around manipulation, swimming around false claims for years.”

“It only takes one lie under oath to throw this case out of court by you, and you can’t count the lies,” Mesereau said.

Mesereau also took aim at the prosecution argument that Jackson targeted vulnerable boys, including his accuser, a former cancer patient.

“Remember their basic claim is that he is akin to a monster. That he would take a cancer patient and see him as a target... Does what you’ve seen in this trial reflect that? Is it even possible? It’s not,” he said.