The Jury Debates

A California jury began deliberating Friday on sexual molestation charges that, if he is convicted, could put entertainer Michael Jackson in prison for years. "It is the life, the future, the reputation and the freedom of Michael Jackson that is in your hands," defense attorney Thomas Mesereau told the panel of eight women and four men during his closing arguments. A guilty verdict would be "potentially devastating" to the pop star, he said.Throughout a tumultuous three-month trial, Mesereau painted Jackson's accuser and his family as liars. In his final statement on Friday, Mesereau reminded the jury that "if you have any reasonable doubt about anything ... it's over. You must acquit." The defense attorney reiterated his trial-long argument that the accuser and his mother are skilled grifters motivated by greed. "If you convict [Jackson] of anything, they are going to be millionaires," Mesereau told jurors.Mesereau ended his closing arguments dramatically, showing about 30 minutes...

Going After the Accuser

Michael Jackson's defense this week aggressively called into question the accuser's claims of child molestation. A parade of witnesses, from Larry King to a professional leg waxer, took the stand for Jackson, with more star power expected on the witness stand next week.The appearance on Thursday by King, the CNN talk-show host, was short lived. With the jury out of the courtroom, King recounted that Los Angeles lawyer Larry Feldman had called the mother of Jackson's 13-year-old accuser "wacko" and had said she was "in it for the money." But King spent less than 10 minutes on the stand in a pretrial hearing before Judge Rodney Melville ruled King's statements inadmissible. The judge then repeated the ruling for another proposed defense witness, Michael Viner, a publisher, who was also at the breakfast meeting last winter with King and Feldman.In April, Feldman testified for the prosecution that he referred Jackson's accuser to a psychologist who then contacted authorities, sparking...

Star Bonding

This week, defense attorneys worked to portray Michael Jackson not as a child molester but as a man who idealizes children in order to make up for a childhood destroyed by the demands of superstardom. As an adult, he befriended other child stars, such as "Home Alone" actor Macaulay Culkin, who took the stand Wednesday to defend his friend. In what observers described as the high point of Jackson's defense so far, Culkin, 24, testified Wednesday that prosecution witness accounts that Jackson molested him in the early 1990's are "absolutely ridiculous."Culkin, the first major celebrity witness in the Santa Maria, Calif., trial, said Jackson befriended him because of their shared "circumstances" as child stars. He admitted that he had slept in the same bed as Jackson on several occasions between age 10 and 14. But he calmly insisted to a packed courtroom that there was nothing improper about the relationship, and he said he never witnessed anything odd in Jackson's dealings with other...

What the Guards Saw

It is a potentially powerful end to what has been an inconclusive first act. In the final phase of their case against Michael Jackson, prosecutors next week plan to call two key witnesses they hope will convince the jury about the truth of the sexual assault charges against the singer.Chris Carter, a former Jackson bodyguard, is expected to testify that the singer gave a 13-year-old cancer survivor alcohol and held his family against their will at his Neverland Ranch two years ago. And Kassim Abdool, a former Neverland security guard, is to recount events that prosecutors say will support at least part of an earlier witness's testimony that Jackson performed oral sex on a boy while they showered together in 1993. The names of both boys are being withheld to protect their identity.Carter, who was recently charged with armed robbery and kidnapping in Nevada, could prove to be a critical witness. He is the highest-ranking Neverland insider who can bolster the string of allegations the...

The Accuser Speaks

It was the first time Michael Jackson had seen his accuser since the boy left Neverland. This week, the 15-year-old cancer survivor took the stand to testify that Jackson sexually molested him in the singer's bedroom when the boy was 13. "I was under the covers, and that is when he put his hand down my pants and started masturbating me," the teen said calmly, describing the first of two such alleged incidents. "A day after that, he did it one more time."The teen said Jackson, 46, told him that it was healthy for men to masturbate, and then he set about teaching the boy how to do it, bringing him to ejaculation. "I felt weird," the boy testified, under questioning from Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon. "I was embarrassed about it. He said it was OK, that it was natural." The young accuser also testified that Jackson tried to pull his hand toward his own genitals, but he resisted.The explicit statements came late on Thursday, capping a dramatic week for the prosecution...