Final words as Jackson case goes to the jury

A GAUNT-LOOKING Michael Jackson arrived at court yesterday to hear final arguments before his child molestation case goes to the jury.

Jackson, appearing drawn, was accompanied by his parents, Joe and Katherine Jackson, sisters Janet and LaToya, and brothers Jermaine, Tito and Randy, among other family members. Jackson clutched his mother’s arm as he walked into the courthouse.

The pop star’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, was to conclude his closing argument, after which the prosecution was to make its rebuttal. The case was to then go to the jury.

Yesterday, Mr Mesereau said that the prosecution’s arguments portraying

Jackson as a hard-drinking, porn-collecting paedophile were part of an effort to “dirty up” the pop star because they couldn’t prove their case that he is guilty of child molestation.

Mr Mesereau spoke after Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen said in his argument that Jackson had brought his accuser, then a 13-year-old cancer survivor, “into the world of the forbidden.”

Mr Zonen said Jackson lowered the boy’s inhibitions by giving him alcohol and showing him pornography before molesting him in the bedroom of the Neverland ranch.

The defence countered that the accuser’s family consisted of “con artists, actors and liars”, adding that the prosecution showed the weakness of its case by personally attacking Mr Mesereau during closing arguments.

“Whenever a prosecutor does that you know they’re in trouble,” Mr Mesereau told jurors.

Prosecutors, Mr Mesereau said, also engaged in a “nasty attempt, a barbaric attempt” to attack Jackson personally by bringing up his financial problems, alcohol consumption, collection of adult magazines and “sagging music career.”

Jackson, who looked glum 24 hours earlier, said “I’m OK” as he left court on Thursday.

His spokesperson, Raymone Bain, denied news reports that surfaced late on Thursday night that Jackson was briefly hospitalised for dehydration after leaving court.

“Not true,” Ms Bain said, adding that the rumour may have been fuelled by advice to Jackson from comedian-turned-nutritionist Dick Gregory that Jackson receive a shot of electrolytes because he appeared dehydrated when Mr Gregory saw him yesterday.

The 46-year-old entertainer is charged with molesting the boy in 2003, plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut the documentary Living With Michael Jackson. In the documentary, Jackson holds hands with the boy and says he allows children into his bed for innocent sleepovers.

Mr Zonen said it was toward the end of a period in which the accuser and his family stayed at Neverland that “the behaviour had turned to something terribly illegal.”

He said Jackson began giving the boy alcohol, adding that even though the teenager’s mother was unaware at the time of any molestation, she insisted her family leave when she learned of the drinking.

“For all her shortcomings, after learning Michael Jackson was giving her son alcohol, in 36 hours she had her children out of there,” Mr Zonen said.

Mr Mesereau said the real issue was “whether the accuser’s family was credible”, and tore into the prosecutor’s claim that the boy’s mother wasn’t out for money.

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