Prosecution Rests With Video of Accuser
Saturday, May 28, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif., May 27 -- Minutes after jurors in the Michael Jackson trial saw the prosecution's last piece of evidence -- a potentially devastating videotape of the first police interview with the boy who has accused Jackson of molesting him -- Jackson's attorneys shocked the courtroom by announcing that they would present no further evidence.
For days defense attorneys had told the court they would summon the accuser and his mother back to the stand for further grilling. Instead, they rested their case and Judge Rodney S. Melville told the jurors: "You have heard all the evidence you're going to hear in this case."
The last bit of evidence was among the most powerful the jury saw in 14 weeks of testimony -- an hour-long video of the boy, then 13, telling two Santa Barbara police officers in July 2003 that Jackson had served him liquor and fondled him.
"This is the strongest ending the prosecution could have asked for," said Craig Smith, a law professor and former Santa Barbara prosecutor. "It's a long weekend and the jurors have extra time to think about that video."
The information was not new -- the boy told basically the same story on the stand in March -- but the video seemed more real and the boy, two years younger, seemed more vulnerable than he did in the courtroom. A few jurors seemed moved by the tape.
"You sit right there, buddy," Sgt Steve Robel said in the video, and the boy plopped down in an armchair, dressed in an untucked blue shirt, blue shorts, white socks and sneakers, his knobby knees bobbing in the center of the picture.
Robel made small talk about baseball and then began asking the boy about his experiences with Jackson.
"Michael Jackson called me in the hospital," said the boy, who is a former cancer patient. "He started telling me he wanted me to come down to the ranch."
The pop singer sent a limo to bring the boy and his family to Neverland ranch, and shortly after they arrived, he said, Jackson took him aside.
"Michael asked me to ask him in front of my parents if I could stay with him in his bedroom," the boy told Robel, speaking in the mumbling monotone typical of teenagers. "He wanted just me to come and I asked if my brother could come."
In the bedroom at the ranch, Jackson took out a laptop computer and showed the boys pictures of girls, the boy said.
"Once you share this with us, you'll feel better," said Robel.