Jury sees ‘rebuttal’ video of family – SBNP

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[b]Jury sees ‘rebuttal’ video of family[/b] 3/5/05 By DAWN HOBBS NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER Boy’s relatives shown praising singer Jurors in the Michael Jackson case watched a video Friday in which the family of the boy who is accusing the entertainer of molestation called him loving, caring and honest, “an ideal family man” and “father figure” whom they affectionately named “Daddy Michael.” The prosecution alleges that the family took part in the video in February 2003 while they were being held hostage by Mr. Jackson’s associates and were under duress. But jurors saw a family laughing, joking and lavishly praising Mr. Jackson for saving the boy from the grip of cancer and opening his Neverland Valley Ranch to them. How the jury perceives the testimony by the boy and his relatives is crucial to the prosecution’s case. The defense has indicated that it plans to attack the family’s credibility. The video was shown during the second day of testimony by the sister of the boy who has accused Mr. Jackson of molesting him at Neverland when he was 13. The sister, who is now 18, testified under questioning from Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon that Jackson associates scripted the video interview and forced the family to say nice things about the entertainer. However, on cross-examination by lead defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau, she said she was given only a list of questions. Mr. Mesereau’s cross-examination seemed to catch the sister in inconsistencies, including her statements to sheriff’s deputies about Mr. Jackson giving wine to her brothers. Mr. Mesereau read part of a police report from July 2003. When deputies asked how she knew it was wine, she responded, “Because it’s a wine cellar and there’s nothing to serve but wine.” The defense attorney pointed out that on Thursday, she testified that she saw Mr. Jackson open a bottle of wine and pour it into cups. When Mr. Mesereau asked why she didn’t report this to the deputies, she said, “I didn’t realize I was supposed to tell them every detail.” The sister also admitted lying when she praised Mr. Jackson during an interview with Los Angeles authorities and a private investigator, but said she did so because she felt threatened by Mr. Jackson’s associates. Early in the questioning, the sister got flustered and fought back tears when Mr. Mesereau pressed her about her medical history. After that, the attorney’s tone was gentler but still firm. But the young woman did cry when he asked if she knew that her mother had accused her father of molesting her years ago. The defense’s line of questioning was intended to show that family members have a history of alleging abuse. To many of Mr. Mesereau’s questions, she offered the same response: “I was too young. I don’t remember.” Several jurors looked at her skeptically. Mr. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, giving alcohol to a minor to commit a felony and conspiracy. Wearing a dark suit with a white shirt and red tie, he waved at a couple of excited fans as he walked into the Santa Maria courtroom on Friday. Once inside, he stretched a few times, grabbed a handful of honey eucalyptus cough drops from the bailiff’s candy dish and took his seat. As he has done throughout the week, Mr. Jackson listened to the testimony and frequently spoke with his lawyers. His mother, Katherine, brother Jermaine and sister LaToya also attended. At the end of the day when asked by reporters how the week went, he said, “It went very good. It went very good.” Prosecutors allege that the video shown to jurors Friday was an attempt to repair the public relations damage created by British journalist Martin Bashir’s documentary, which showed the entertainer holding hands with the boy and saying he shared his bed with children. In the rebuttal video, the family appeared to be excited about being in front of the camera. The boy, then 13, and his mother sat together holding hands; behind them sat his brother, then 12, and his sister, then 16. When asked about criticism of Mr. Jackson’s statements about sleeping with children, the mother said: “It’s beautiful what they have together. It comes from jealousy. . . . It disturbs me so much because I am there and able to see the interaction he has with my three children.” She later asked the cameraman to get a close-up of her and her son holding hands to match the way the boy and Mr. Jackson were holding hands in the Bashir documentary. “It’s a natural thing, like I’m holding his hand right now. . . . I get upset when people think it’s wrong and dirty,” the mother said. The boy said Mr. Jackson saved his life: “He would give me faith. He’d get me looking toward the future. . . . He told me I have to get better. He said, ‘I need you to get better.’ ” The sister was shown in the video crying when she talked about her brother’s cancer. As she watched from the witness stand Friday, she wiped tears from her eyes. Jurors looked at her sympathetically but also appeared slightly confused by scenes of levity in the video. Mr. Sneddon asked the sister only a few questions about the video and repeated the allegation that Mr. Jackson’s associates had threatened the family. The prosecutor asked the sister to tell jurors how her brother’s behavior had changed after he met Mr. Jackson. She turned toward the jury box and said: “(My brother) is a very affectionate little boy. He loves to be kissed. He loves to be held.” He became distant at Neverland, she said, but there was even more change when they returned from the ranch to their home: “He didn’t want to talk to me. He didn’t want to be hugged. He didn’t want to be kissed.” Moments later, Mr. Sneddon asked her: “Did you ever see Mr. Jackson touching your brother in an inappropriate way?” She responded: “Yes. He would be constantly hugging and kissing him on the cheek and on the head.” Mr. Mesereau is expected to resume cross-examination of the sister on Monday. Dawn Hobbs also works as a news analyst for NBC and MSNBC. To reach her, e-mail dhobbs@newspress.com. Source: http://news.newspress.com/topsports/030505jackson.htm

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